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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 



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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

A NOVEL 

BY 

EDITH WHARTON 

VOLUME II 



MtiMitudeSy multittides in the valley ofdedsum 



NEW YORK 

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

MDCCCCII 



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CopSffight, 1902, by Charles Scribner's Sons 
Published February, 1902 

AU 764 7,.3 7s'rO 




D. B. Updike, The Merrymount Press, Boston 



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CONTENTS 
OF VOLUME SECOND 

BOOK III 
THE CHOICE 3 

BOOK IV 
THE REWARD 145 



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BOOK III 

THE CHOICE 

The Vision touched him on the Ups and ttdd: 
Herectfter thou shalt eat me in thy hready 
Drink me in all thy kisses, feel my hand 
Steal *twixt thy palm and Joy*s, and see me stand 
Watchful at every crossing of the ways, 
The insatiate lover of thy nights and days. 



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BOOK III 
THE CHOICE 

I 

IT was at Naples, some two years later, that the 
circumstances of his flight were recalled to Odo 
Valsecca by the somid of a voice which at once myste- 
riously connected itself with the incidents of that wild 
night. 

He was seated with a party of gentlemen in the sa- 
loon of Sir William Hamilton's famous villa of Posilipo, 
where they were sipping the Ambassador's iced sherbet 
and examining certain engraved gems and burial-urns 
recently taken from the excavations. The scene was such 
as always appealed to Odo's fancy: the spacious room, 
luxuriously fitted with carpets and curtains in the Eng- 
lish style, and opening on a prospect of classical beauty 
and antique renown; in his hands the rarest specimens 
of that buried art which, like some belated golden har- 
vest, was now everywhere thrusting itself through the 
Neapolitan soil; and about him men of taste and under- 
standing, discussing the historic or mythological mean- 
ing of the objects before them, and quoting Homer or 
Horace in corroboration of their guesses. 

Several visitors had joined the party since Odo's en- 
trance; and it was from a group of these later arrivals 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

that the voice had reached him. He looked round and 
saw a man of refined and scholarly appearance, dressed 
en abb6y as was the general habit in Rome and Naples, 
and holding in one hand the celebrated blue vase cut 
in cameo which Sir William had recently purchased 
from the Barberini family. 

"These reliefs," the stranger was sa3dng, "whether 
cut in the substance itself, or afterward affixed to the 
glass, certainly belong to the Grecian period of cameo- 
work, and recall by the purity of their design the finest 
carvings of Dioskorides.**' His beautifully-modulated 
Italian was tinged by a slight foreign accent, which 
seemed to connect him still more definitely with the 
episode his voice recalled. Odo turned to a gentleman 
at his side and asked the speaker^s name. 

"That," was the reply, "is the abate de Crucis, a 
scholar and cognoscente, as you perceive, and at present 
attached to the household of the Papal Nuncio." 

Instantly Odo beheld the tumultuous scene in the 
Duke^s apartments, and heard the indictment of Heili- 
genstem falling in tranquil accents from the very lips 
which were now, in the same tone, discussing the date 
of a Greek cameo vase. Even in that moment of dis- 
order he had been struck by the voice and aspect of 
the agent of the Holy Office, and by a singular distinc- 
tion that seemed to set the man himself above the coil 
of passions in which his action was involved. To Odo^s 

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THE CHOICE 

spontaneous yet reflective temper there was something 
peculiarly impressive in the kind of detachment which 
implies, not obtuseness or indifierence, but a higher 
sensitiveness disciplined by choice. Now he felt a re- 
newed pang of regret that such qualities should be 
found in the service of the opposition; but the feeling 
was not incompatible with a wish to be more nearly 
acquainted with their possessor. 

The two years elapsing since Odo's departiue fix)m 
Pianura had widened if they had not lifted his outlook. 
If he had lost something of his early enthusiasm he had 
exchanged it for a larger experience of cities and men, 
and for the self-command bom of varied intercourse. 
He had reached a point where he was able to survey 
his past dispassionately and to disentangle the threads 
of the intrigue in which he had so nearly lost his foot- 
ing. The actual circumstances of his escape were still 
wrapped in mystery: he could only conjecture that the 
Duchess, foreseeing the course events would take, had 
planned with Cantapresto to save him in spite of him- 
self. His nocturnal flight down the river had carried 
him to Ponte di Po, the point where the Plana flows 
into the Po, the latter river forming for a few miles the 
southern frontier of the duchy. Here his passport had 
taken him safely past the customs-officer, and following 
the indications of the boatman, he had found, outside 
the miserable village clustered about the customs, a 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

travelling-chaise which brought him before the next 
nightfall to Monte Alloro. 

Of the real danger from which this timely retreat had 
removed him, Gramba^s subsequent letters had brought 
ample proof. It was indeed mainly against Odo that 
both parties, perhaps jointly, had directed their attack; 
designing to take him in the toils ostensibly prepared 
for the Uluminati. His evasion known, the Holy Office 
had contented itself with imprisoning Heiligenstem in 
one of the Papal fortresses near the Adriatic, while his 
mistress, though bred in the Greek confession, was con- 
fined in a convent of the Sepdte Vive and his Oriental 
servant sent to the Duke^s galleys. As to those sus- 
pected of affiliations with the forbidden sect, fines and 
penances were imposed on a few of the least conspicu- 
ous, while the chief offenders, either from motives of 
policy or thanks to their superior adroitness, were suf- 
fered to escape without a reprimand. After this, Gamba^s 
letters reported, the duchy had lapsed into its former 
state of quiescence. Prince Ferrante had been seriously 
ailing since the night of the electrical treatment, but 
the Pope having sent his private physician to Pianura, 
the boy had rallied under the latter's care. The Duke, 
as was natural, had suffered an acute relapse of piety, 
spending his time in expiatory pilgrimages to the va- 
rious votive churches of the duchy, and declining to 
transact any public business till he should have com- 

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THE CHOICE 

piled with his own hand a calendar of the lives of the 
saints, with the initial letters painted in miniature, 
which he designed to present to his Holiness at Easter. 
Meanwhile Odo, at Monte Alloro, found himself in 
surroundings so different from those he had left that it 
seemed incredible they should exist in the same world. 
The Duke of Monte Alloro was that rare survival of 
a stronger age, a cynic. In a period of sentimental opti- 
mism, of fervid enthusiasms and tearful philanthropy, 
he represented the pleasure-loving prince of the Re- 
naissance, crushing his people with taxes but dazzling 
them with festivities; infuriating them by his disre- 
gard of the public welfare, but fascinating them by his 
good looks, his tolerance of old abuses, his ridicule 
of the monks, and by the careless libertinage which 
had foimded the fortimes of more than one middle-class 
husband and father — for the Duke always paid well 
for what he appropriated. He had grown old in his 
pleasant sins, and these, as such raiment will, had grown 
old and dingy with him; but if no longer splendid he 
was still splendor-loving, and drew to his court the most 
billiant adventurers of Italy. Spite of his preference for 
such company, he had a nobler side, the ruins of a fine 
but uncultivated intelligence, and a taste for all that was 
young, generous and high in looks and courage. He 
was at once drawn to Odo, who instinctively addressed 
himself to these qualities, and whose conversation and 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

manners threw into relief the vulgarity of the old Duke^s 
cronies. The latter was shrewd enough to enjoy the con- 
trast at the expense of his sycophants^ vanity; and the 
cavaliere Valsecca was for a while the reigning favorite, 
[t would have been hard to say whether his patron was 
most tickled by his zeal for economic reforms or by his 
Taith in the perfectibility of man. Both these articles of 
Odo's creed drew tears of enjoyment from the old Duke^s 
puffy eyes; and he was never tired of declaring that only 
his hatred for his nephew of Pianura induced him to ac* 
cord his protection to so dangerous an enemy of society. 
Odo at first fancied that it was in response to a mere 
whim of the Duke^s that he had been despatched to 
Monte Alloro; but he soon perceived that the invita- 
tion had been inspired by Maria Clementina^s wish. 
Some three months after Odo^s arrival, Cantapresto 
suddenly appeared with a packet of letters from the 
Duchess. Among them her Highness had included a 
few lines to Odo, whom she briefly adjured not to re- 
turn to Pianura, but to comply in all things with her 
nucleus desires. Soon after this the old Duke sent for 
Odo, and asked him how his present mode of life 
agreed with his tastes. Odo, who had learned that 
frankness was the surest way to the Duke^s favor, re- 
plied that, while nothing could be more agreeable than 
the circumstances of his sojourn at Monte Alloro, he 
must own to a wish to travel when the occasion offered. 

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THE CHOICE 

"Why, this is as I fancied,^ replied the Duke, who 
held in his hand an open letter on which Odo recog- 
nized Maria Clementina^s seaL "We have always,^ he 
continued, "spoken plainly with each other, and I will 
not conceal from you that it is for your best interests 
that you should remain away from Pianura for the 
present. The Duke, as you doubtless divine, is anxious 
for your return, and her Highness, for that very reason, 
as urgent that you should prolong your absence. It is 
notorious that the Duke soon wearies of those about 
him, and that your best chance of regaining his favor 
is to keep out of his reach and let your enemies hang 
themselves in the noose they have prepared for you. 
For my part, I am always glad to do an ill-turn to that 
snivelling friar, my nephew, and the more so when I 
can seriously oblige a friend; and, as you have perhaps 
guessed, the Duke dares not ask for your return while 
I show a fancy for your company. But this,*" added he 
with an ironical twinkle, "is a tame place for a young 
man of your missionary temper, and I have a mind to 
send you on a visit to that arch-tyrant Ferdinand of 
Naples, in whose dominions a man may yet bum for 
heresy or be drawn and quartered for poaching on a 
nobleman^s preserves. I am advised that some rare trea- 
sures have lately been tak^i from the excavations there 
and I should be glad if you would oblige me by ac- 
quiring a few for my gallery. I will give you letters to 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

a cogTiosccfUe of my aoqnaintanoe, who will put his ex- 
perience at the disposal of your excellent taste, and the 
funds at your service will, I hope, enable you to outbid 
the English brigands who, as the Romans say, would 
cany off the Colosseum if it were portable.*" 

In all this Odo discerned Maria Clem^itina'^s hand, 
and an instinctive resistance made him ha&g back upon 
his patron^s proposal. But the only alternative was to 
return to Pianiu^; and every letter from Gramba uiged 
on him (for the very reasons the Duke had given) the 
duty of keeping out of reach as the surest means of 
saving himself and the cause to which he was pledged. 
Nothing remained but a graceful acquiescence; and early 
the next spring he started for Naples. 

His first impulse had been to send Cantapresto back 
to the Duchess. He knew that he owed his escape fix>m 
grave difficulties to the soprano^s prompt action on the 
night of Heiligenstem^s arrest; but he was equally sure 
that such action might not always be as favorable to 
his plans. It was plain that Cantapresto was paid to 
spy on him, and that whenever Odo^s intentions clashed 
with those of his would-be protectors the soprano would 
side with the latter. But there was something in the air 
of Monte Alloro which dispelled such considerations, or 
at least weakened the impulse to act on them. Canta- 
presto as usual had attracted notice at court His glib- 
ness and versatility amused the Duke, and to Odo he 
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THE CHOICE 

was as difficult to put off as a bad habit He had be- 
come so accomplished a servant that he seemed a sixth 
sense of his master^s; and when the latter prepared to 
start on his travels Cantapresto took his usual seat in 
the chai^^-. 



To a traveller of Odo^s temper there could be few 
more agreeable journeys than the one on which he was 
setting out, and the Duke being in no haste to have his 
commission executed, his messenger had full leisure to 
enjoy every stage of the way. He profited by this to 
visit several of the small principalities north of the 
Apennines before turning toward Genoa, whence he 
was to take ship for the south. When he left Monte 
Alloro the land had worn the bleached face of Feb- 
ruary, and it was amazing to his northern-bred eyes to 
find himself, on the sea-coast, in the full exuberance of 
summer. Seated by this halcyon shore, Grenoa, in its 
carved and frescoed splendor, just then celebrating with 
the customary gorgeous ritual the accession of a new 
Doge, seemed to Odo like the richly-inlaid frame of 
some Renaissance ^^triumph.^ But the splendid houses 
with their marble peristyles, and the painted villas in 
their orange-groves along the shore, housed a dull and 
narrow-minded society, content to amass wealth and 
play biribi under the eyes of their ancestral Vandykes, 



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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

without any concern as to the questions agitating the 
world. A kind of fat commercial dulness, a lack of that 
personal distinction which justifies magnificence, seemed 
to Odo the prevailing note of the place;, nor was he 
sorry when his packet set sail for Naples. 

Here indeed he found all the vivacity that Grenoa 
lacked. Few cities could at first acquaintance be more 
engaging to the stranger. Dull and brown as it ap- 
peared after the rich tints of Genoa, yet so gloriously 
did sea and land embrace it, so lavishly the sun gild 
and the moon silver it, that it seemed steeped in the 
surrounding hues of nature. And what a natiu^ to eyes 
subdued to the sober tints of the north! Its spectacular 
quality — that studied sequence of efiects ranging from 
the translucent outUne of Capri and the fantastically 
blue mountains of the coast, to Vesuvius lifting its 
torch above the plain — this prodigal response to fancy's 
claims suggested the boundless invention of some great 
scenic artist, some Oljmipian Veronese with sea and 
sky for a palette. And then the city itself, huddled be- 
tween bay and mountains, and seething and bubbling 
like a Titan's caldron! Here was life at its soiu-ce, not 
checked, directed, utilized, but gushing forth uncon- 
trollably through every fissure of the brown walls and 
reeking streets — love and hatred, mirth and folly, im- 
pudence and greed, going naked and unashamed as the 
lazzaroni on the quays. The variegated surfsice of it all 
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THE CHOICE 

was fascinating to Odo. It set free his powers of purely 
physical enjoyment, keeping all deeper sensations in 
abeyance. These, however, presently found satisfaction 
in that other hidden beauty of which city and plain 
were but the sumptuous drapery. It is hardly too much 
to say that to the trained eyes of the day the visible 
Naples hardly existed, so absorbed were they in the pe- 
rusal of her buried past. The fever of excavation was 
on every one. No social or political problem could find 
a hearing while the subject of the last coin or bas-relief 
from Pompeii or Herculaneum remained undecided.* 
Odo, at first an amused spectator, gradually found him- 
self engrossed in the fierce quarrels raging over the date 
of an intaglio or the myth represented on an amphor€u 
The intrinsic beauty of the objects, and the light they 
shed on one of the most brilliant phases of human his- 
tory, were in fact sufficient to justify the prevailing 
ardor; and the reconstructive habit he had acquired 
from Crescenti lent a living interest to the driest dis- 
cussion between rival collectors. 

Gradually other influences reasserted themselves. At 
the house of Sir William Hamilton, then the centre of 
the most polished society in Naples, he met not only 
artists and archaeologists, but men of letters and of 
affairs. Among these, he was peculiarly drawn to the 
two distinguished economists, the abate Galiani and 
the cavaliere Filangieri, in whose company he enjoyed 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

for the fint time sound learning unhampered by ped- 
antry. The lively Galiani proved that social tastes and 
a broad wit are not incompatible with more serious 
interests; and Filangieri threw the charm of a grace- 
ful personality over any topic he discussed. In the latter 
indeed, courtly, young and romantic, a thinker whose 
intellectual acuteness was steeped in moral emotion, 
Odo beheld the type of the new chivalry, an ideal 
leader of the campaign against social injustice. Filan- 
gieri represented the extremest optimism of the day. 
His sense of existing abuses was only equalled by his 
fiadth in their speedy amendment. Love was to cure all 
evils: the love of man for man, the efiusive all-embra- 
cing Sjrmpathy of the school of the Vicaire Savoyard, 
was to purge the emotions by tenderness and pity. In 
Gramba, the victim of the conditions he denounced, the 
sense of present hardship prevailed over the faith in 
future improvement; while Filangieri^s social superi- 
ority mitigated his view of the evils and magnified the 
efficacy of the proposed remedies. Odo^s dajrs passed 
agreeably in such intercourse, or in the excitement of 
excursions to the ruined cities; and as the coiu*t and 
the higher society of Naples offered little to engage 
him, he gradually restricted himself to the small circle 
of chosen spirits gathered at the villa Hamilton. To 
these he fancied the abate de Cruds might prove an 
interesting addition; and the desire to learn something 
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THE CHOICE 

of this problematic person induced him to quit the villa 
at the moment when the abate took leave. 

They found themselves together on the threshold; 
and Odo, recalling to the other the circumstances of 
their first meeting, proposed that they should dismiss 
their carriages and r^ain the aty on foot. De Crucis 
readily consented; and they were soon descending the 
hill of Posilipo. Here and there a turn in the road 
brought them to an open space whence they com- 
manded the bay from Prodda to Sorrento, with Capri 
afloat in liquid gold and the long blue shadow of Vesu- 
vius stretching like a menace toward the city. The spec- 
tacle was one of which Odo never wearied; but to-day 
it barely diverted him from the charms of his compan- 
ion's talk. The abate de Crucis had that quality of 
repressed enthusiasm, of an intellectual sensibility tem- 
pered by self-possession, which exercises the strongest 
attraction over a mind not yet master of itself. Though 
all he said had a personal note he seemed to withhold 
himself even in the moment of greatest expansion: like 
some prince who should enrich his fiEtvorites from the 
public treasury but keep his private fortune unim- 
paired. In the coiu'se of their conversation Odo learned 
that his friend, though of Austrian birth, was of min- 
gled English and Florentine parentage: a &ct perhaps 
explaining the mixture of urbanity and reserve that 
lent such charm to his manner. He told Odo that his 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

connection with the Holy OfBce had been only tempo- 
rary, and that, having contracted a severe cold the 
previous winter in Grermany, he had accepted a secre- 
taryship in the service of the Papal Nuncio in order 
to enjoy the benefits of a mild climate. "By profession,'' 
he added, "I am a pedagogue, and shall soon travel to 
Rome, where I have been called by Prince Bracdano 
to act ^ governor to his son; and meanwhile I am tak- 
ing advantage of my residence here to indulge my taste 
for antiquarian studies.*" 

He went on to praise the company they had just left, 
declaring that he knew no better way for a young man 
to form his mind than by frequenting the society of 
men of conflicting views and equal capacity. ** Nothing,'' 
said he, **is more injurious to the growth of character 
than to be secluded from argument and opposition; as 
nothing is healthier than to be obliged to find good 
reasons for one's beliefs on pain of surrendering them." 

^^But," said Odo, struck with this declaration, "to a 
man of your cloth there is one belief which never sur- 
renders to reason." 

The other smiled. **True," he agreed; "but I often 
marvel to see how little our opponents know of that 
belief. The wisest of them seem in the case of those 
children at om: country fairs who gape at the incredible 
things depicted on the curtains of the booths, without 
asking themselves whether the reality matches its pre- 
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THE CHOICE 

sentment. The weakness of human nature has compelled 
us to paint the outer curtain of the sanctuary in gaudy 
colors, and the malicious fancy of our enemies has given 
a monstrous outline to these pictures; but what are such 
vanities to one who has passed beyond, and beheld the 
beauty of the Eing^s daughter, all glorious within?'' 

Ais though unwilling to linger on such grave topics, 
he turned the talk to the scene at their feet, question- 
ing Odo as to the impression Naples had made on him. 
He listened courteously to the young man's comments 
on the wretched state of the peasantry, the extrava- 
gances of the court and nobility and the judicial cor- 
ruption which made the lower classes submit to any 
injustice rather than seek redress through the courts. 
De Crucis agreed with him in the main, admitting that 
the monopoly of com, the maintenance of feudal rights 
and the King's indifference to the graver duties of his 
rank placed the kingdom of Naples far below such states 
as Tuscany or Venetia; "though," he added, "I think 
our economists, in praising one state at the expense of 
another, too often overlook those differences of char- 
acter and climate that must ever make it impossible to 
govern different races in the same manner. Our peasants 
have a blunt saying : Ctd off the dog^s tail cmd he is stiU 
a dog; and so I suspect the most enlightened rule would 
hardly bring this prompt and choleric people, living on 
a volcanic soil and amid a teeming vegetation, into any 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

resemblance with the clear-headed Tuscan or the gentle 
and dignified Roman.^ 

As he spoke they emerged upon the Chiaia, where at 
that hour the quality took the air in their carriages, 
while the lower classes thronged the footway. A more 
vivacious scene no city of Europe could present. The 
gilt coaches drawn by six or eight of the lively Neapoli- 
tan horses, decked with plumes and artificial flowers and 
preceded by running footmen who beat the foot-passen- 
gers aside with long staves; the richly-dressed ladies 
seated in this never-ending file of carriages, bejewelled 
like miraculous images and languidly bowing to their 
friends; the throngs of citizens and their wives in holi- 
day dress; the sellers of sherbet, ices and pastry bearing 
their trays and barrels through the crowd with strange 
cries and the jingling of bells; the friars of every order 
in their various habits, the street-musicians, the half- 
naked lazzaroni, cripples and beggars, who fringed the 
throng Uke the line of scum edging a £ur lake; — this 
medley of sound and color, which in hd resembled 
some sudden growth of the fiery soil, was an expressive 
comment on the abaters words. 

^^Look,*" he continued, as he and Odo drew aside to 
escape the mud from an emblazoned chariot, ^^at the 
gold-leaf on the panels of that coach and the gold-lace 
on the liveries of those lacqueys. Is there any other city 
in the world where gold is so prodigally used? Where 
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THE CHOICE 

the monks gild their relics, the nobility their servants, 
the apothecaries their piUs, the very butchers their 
mutton? One might fanc^ their bright sun had set 
them the example! And how cold and grey all soberer 
tints must seem to these children of Apollo! Well — so 
it is with their religion and their daily life. I wager half 
those naked wretches yonder would rather attend a fine 
religious service, with abundance of gilt candles, music 
from gilt organ-pipes, and incense from gilt censers, 
than eat a good meal or sleep in a decent bed; as they 
would rather starve under a handsome merry king that 
has the name of being the best billiard-player in Eu- 
rope than go full imder one of your solemn reforming 
Austrian Archdukes!^ 

The words recalled to Odo Crescenti'^s theory of the 
influence of character and climate on the covu'se of his- 
tory; and this subject soon engrossing both speakers, 
they wandered on, inattentive to their surroimdings, till 
they foimd themselves in the thickest concourse of the 
Toledo. Here for a moment the dense crowd hemmed 
them in; and as they stood observing the humors of the 
scene, Odo^s eye fell on the thick-set figure of a man 
in doctor'^s dress, who was being led through the press 
by two agents of the Inquisition. The sight was too 
common to have fixed his attention, had he not recog- 
nized with a start the irascible red-faced professor who, 
on his first visit to Vivaldi, had defended the Diluvial 
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THE VALLEY OP DECISION 

theory of creation. The sight raised a host of memories 
from which Odo would gladly have beaten a retreat; 
but the crowd held him in check and a moment later 
he saw that the doctor^s eyes were fixed on him with an 
air of recognition. A movement of pity succeeded his 
first impulse, and turning to de Crucis he exclaimed: — 
^^I see yonder an old acquaintance who seems in an 
unlucky plight and with whom I should be glad to 



The other, following his glance, beckoned to one of 
the sbirrij who made his way through the throng with 
the alacrity of one summoned by a superior. De Crucis 
exchanged a few words with him, and then signed to 
him to return to his charge, who presently vanished in 
some fresh shifting of the crowd. 

"Yoiu: friend,'' sfidd de Crucis, "has been summoned 
before the Holy Office to answer a charge of heresy pre- 
ferred by the authorities. He has lately been appointed 
to the chair of physical sciences in the University here, 
and has doubtless allowed himself to publish openly 
views that were better expounded in the closet. His 
offence, however, appears to be a mild one, and I make 
no doubt he will be set free in a few days.*" 

This, however, did not satisfy Odo; and he asked de 
Crucis if there were no way of speaking with the doctor 
at once. 

His companion hesitated. "It can easily be arranged,'" 
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said he; "but — pardon me, cavaliere — are you well- 
advised in mixing yourself in such matters?^ 

"I am well-advised in seeking to serve a fidend!*** Odo 
somewhat hotly returned; and de Crucis, with a faint 
smile of approval, replied quietly: "In that case I will 
obtain permission for you to visit your friend in the 
morning.'' 

He was true to his word; and the next forenoon Odo, 
accompanied by an officer of poUce, was taken to the 
prison of the Inquisition. Here he found his old ac- 
quaintance seated in a clean commodious room and 
reading Aristotle's History of Animals, the only voliune 
of his library that he had been permitted to carry with 
him. He welcomed Odo heartily, and on the latter's en- 
quiring what had brought him to this plight, replied 
with some dignity that he had been led there in the 
fulfilment of his duty. 

"Some months ago," he continued, "I was summoned 
hither to profess the natiu^al sciences in the University; 
a summons I readily accepted, since I hoped, by the 
study of a volcanic soil, to enlarge my knowledge of the 
globe's formation. Such in fact was the case, but to my 
surprise my researches led me to adopt the views I had 
formerly combated, and I now find myself in the ranks 
of the Vulcanists, or believers in the secondary origin of 
the earth: a view you may remember I once opposed 
with all the zeal of inexperience. Having firmly estab- 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

lished every point in my argument according to the 
Baconian method of investigation, I felt it my duty to 
enlighten my scholars; and in the course of my last lec- 
ture I announced the result of my investigations. I was 
of course aware of the inevitable result; but the servants 
of Truth have no choice but to follow where she calls, 
and many have joyfiilly traversed stonier places than 
any I am likely to travel.'" 

Nothing could exceed the respect with which Odo 
heard this simple confession of faith. It was as though 
the speaker had unconsciously convicted him of remiss- 
ness, of cowardice even; so vain and windy his theoriz- 
ing seemed, judged by the other^s deliberate act! Yet 
placed as he was, what could he do, how advance their 
common end, but by passively waiting on events? At 
least, he reflected, he could perform the trivial service 
of tr3dng to better his fiiend's case; and this he eagerly 
offered to attempt. The doctor thanked him, but with- 
out any great appearance of emotion: Odo was struck 
by the change which had transformed a heady and in- 
temperate speaker into a model of philosophic calm. 
The doctor, indeed, seemed far more concerned for the 
safety of his library and his cabinet of minerals, than 
for his own. "Happily,'^ said he, "I am not a man of 
family, and can therefore saicrifice my liberty with a 
clear conscience: a fact I am the more thankful for 
when I recall the moral distress of our poor fiiend 
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Vivaldi, when compelled to desert his post rather than 
be separated from his daughter.^ 

The name brought the color to Odo^s brow, and with 
an embarrassed air he asked what news the doctor had 
of their friend. 

"Alas,'* said the other, "the last was of his death, 
which happened two years since in Pavia. The Sar- 
dinian Government had, as you probably know, confis- 
cated his small property on his leaving the state, and 
I am told he died in great poverty, and in sore anxiety 
for his daughter's ftiture,'' He added that these events 
had taken place before his own departure frx)m Turin, 
and that since then he had learned nothing of Fulvia's 
fate, save that she was said to have made her home 
with an aunt who lived in a town of the Veneto. 

Odo listened in silence. The lapse of time, and the 
absence of any links of association, had dimmed the 
girPs image in his breast; but at the mere sound of her 
name it lived again, and he felt her interwoven with 
his deepest fibres. The picture of her father's death and 
of her own need filled him with an ineffectual pity, 
and for a moment he thought of seeking her out; but 
the other could recall neither the name of the town she 
had removed to nor that of the relative who had given 
her a home. To aid the good doctor was a simpler busi- 
ness. The intervention of de Crucis and Odo's own in- 
fluence sufficed to effect his release, and on the payment 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

of a heavy fine (in which Odo privately assisted him) 
he was reinstated in his chair. The only promise ex- 
acted by the Holy Office was that he should in future 
avoid propounding his own views on questions already 
decided by Scripture, and to this he readily agreed, 
since, as he shrewdly remarked to Odo, his opinions 
were now well known, and any who wished farther in- 
struction had only to apply to him privately. 

The old Duke having invited Odo to return to Monte 
Alloro with such treasures as he had collected for the 
ducal galleries, the young man resolved to visit Rome on 
his way to the north. His acquaintance with de Crucis 
had grown into something like friendship since their 
joint effort in behalf of the imprisoned sage, and the 
abate preparing to set out about the same time, the 
two agreed to travel together. The road leading from 
Naples to Rome was at that time one of the worst in 
Italy, and was besides so ill-provided with inns that there 
was no inducement to linger on the way. De Crucis, how- 
ever, succeeded in enlivening even this tedious journey. 
He was a good Unguist and a sound classical scholar, 
besides having, as he had told Odo, a pronounced taste 
for antiquarian research. In addition to this, he per- 
formed agreeably on the violin, and was well-acquainted 
with the history of music. His chief distinction, how- 
ever, lay in the ease with which he wore his accomplish- 
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ments, and in a breadth of view that made it possible 
to discuss with him many subjects distafiteful to most 
men of his cloth. The sceptical or licentious ecclesiastic 
was common enough; but Odo had never before met a 
priest who rniited serious piety with this indulgent tem- 
per, or who had learning enough to do justice to the 
aiguments of his opponents. 

On his venturing one evening to compliment de 
Crucis on these qualities, the latter replied with a 
smile: "Whatever has been lately advanced against the 
Jesuits, it can hardly be denied that they were good 
school-masters; and it is to them I owe the talents you 
have been pleased to admire. Indeed,'' he continued, 
quietly fingering his violin, "I was myself bred in the 
order: a fact I do not often make known in the present 
heated state of public opinion; but which I never con- 
ceal when commended for any quality that I owe to 
the Society rather than to my own merif 

Smprise for the moment silenced Odo; for though it 
was known that Italy was full of former Jesuits who 
had been permitted to remain in the country as secular 
priests, and even to act as tutors or professors in pri- 
vate famihes, he had never thought of de Crucis in this 
connection. The latter, seeing his surprise, went on: 
"Once a Jesuit, always a Jesuit, I suppose. I at least 
owe the Society too much not to own my debt when 
the occasion offers. Nor could I ever see the force of the 
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charge so often brought against us: that we saicrifice 
everything to the glory of the order. For what is the 
glory of the order? Our own motto has declared it: 
Ad mcgorem Dei gloriam — who works for the Society 
works for its Master, If our zeal has been sometimes 
misdirected, our blood has a thousand times witnessed 
to its sincerity. In the Indies, in America, in England 
during the great persecution, and lately on our own 
unnatural coasts, the Jesuits have died for Christ as 
joyfully as His first disciples died for Him. Yet these 
are but a small number in comparison with the count- 
less servants of the order who, laboring in far coun- 
tries among savage peoples, or surrounded by the he- 
retical enemies of our fedih, have died the far bitterer 
death of moral isolation: setting themselves to their 
task with the knowledge that their lives were but so 
much indistinguishable dust to be added to the sum 
of hiunan effort What association founded on human 
interests has ever commanded such devotion? And what 
merely hiunan authority could count on such unques- 
tioning obedience, not in a mob of poor illiterate 
monks, but in men chosen for their capacity and 
trained to the exercise of their highest faculties? Yet 
there have never lacked such men to serve the order; 
and as one of our enemies has said — our noblest 
enemy, the great Pascal — *Je crois volontiers muc his- 
Mres dont k4 Umoms sejimt (gorger.^'^ 
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He did not again revert to his connection with the 
Jesuits; but in the farther course of their acquaintance 
Odo was often struck by the firmness with which he 
testified to the faith that was in him, without using 
the jargon of piety, or seeming, by his own attitude, 
to cast a reflection on that of others. He was indeed 
master of that worldly science which the Jesuits ex- 
celled in imparting, and which, though it might sink to 
hypocrisy in smaller natures, became, in a finely-tem- 
pered spirit, the very flower of Christian courtesy. 

Odo had often spoken to de Crucis of the luxurious 
lives led by many of the monastic orders in Naples. It 
might be true enough that the monks themselves, and 
even their abbots, fared on fish and vegetables, and 
gave their time to charitable and educational work; 
but it was impossible to visit the famous monastery of 
San Martino, or that of the Carthusians at Camaldoli, 
without observing that the anchoret^s cell had expanded 
into a delightful apartment, with bed-chamber, library 
and private chapel, and his cabbage-plot into a princely 
garden. De Crucis admitted the truth of the charge, ex- 
plaining it in part by the character of the Neapolitan 
people, and by the tendency of the northern traveller 
to forget that such apparent luxuries as spacious rooms, 
shady groves and the like are regarded as necessities in 
a hot climate. He urged, moreover, that the monastic 
life should not be judged by a few isolated instances; 
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and on the way to Rome he proposed that Odo, by way 
of seeing the other side of the question, should visit 
the ancient foundation of the Benedictines on Monte 
Cassino. 

The venerable monastery, raised on its height over 
the busy vale of Garigliano, like some contemplative 
spirit above the conflicting problems of life, might well 
be held to represent the nobler side of Christian celi- 
bacy. For nearly a thousand years its fortified walls had 
been the stronghold of the humanities, and generations 
of students had cherished and added to the treasures of 
the library. But the Benedictine rule was as famous for 
good works as for learning, and its comparative absten- 
tion from dogmatic controversy and from the mechani- 
cal devotions of some of the other orders had drawn to 
it men of superior mind, who sought in the monastic 
life the fi-ee exercise of the noblest activities rather 
than a sanctified refiige fix)m action. This was especially 
true of the monastery of Monte Cassino, whither many 
scholars had been attracted, and where the fathers had 
long had the highest name for learning and beneficence. 
The monastery, moreover, in addition to its charitable 
and educational work among the poor, maintained a 
school of theology to which students came fix)m all 
parts of Italy; and their presence lent an unwonted life 
to the great labyrinth of courts and cloisters. 

The abbot, with whom de Cruris was well-acquainted^ 
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welcomed the travellers warmly, making them free of 
the library and the archives, and pressing them to pro- 
long their visit Under the spell of these influences they 
lingered on from day to day; and to Odo they were the 
pleasantest days he had known. To be waked before 
dawn by the bell ringing for lauds — to rise fit)m the 
narrow bed in his white-washed cell, and opening his 
casement look forth over the haze-enveloped valley, the 
dark hills of the Abruzzi, and the remote gleam of sea 
touched into being by the simrise — to hasten through 
hushed echoing corridors to the church where in a grey 
resrurection-light the fathers were intoning the solemn 
office of renewal — this morning ablution of the spirit, 
so like the bodily plunge into clear cold water, seemed to 
attune the mind to the frdlest enjoyment of what was to 
follow: the hours of study, the talks with the monks, 
the strolls through cloister or garden, all punctuated by 
the recurring summons to devotion. Yet for all its la- 
tent significance it remained to him a purely sensuous 
impression, the vision of a golden leisure: not a solution 
of life's perplexities, but at best an honorable escape 
from them. 



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II 

"^TT^O know Rome is to have assisted at the councils 

A of destiny r 

This cry of a more famous traveller must have strug- 
gled for expression in Odo's breast as the great city, the 
city of cities, laid her irresistible hold upon him. His 
first impression, as he drove in the clear evening light 
from the Porta del Popolo to his lodgings in the Via 
Sistina, was of a prodigious accumulation of architec- 
tural effects, a crowding of century on century, all fused 
in the crucible of the Roman sun, so that each style 
seemed linked to the other by some subtle affinity of 
color. Nowhere else, surely, is the traveller's first sight 
so crowded with surprises, with conflicting challenges to 
eye and brain. Here, as he passed, was a fragment of 
the ancient Servian wall, there a new stucco shrine 
embedded in the bricks of a mediaeval palace; on one 
hand a lofty terrace crowned by a row of mouldering 
busts, on the other a tower with machicolated parapet, 
its flanks encrusted with bits of Roman sculpture and 
the escutcheons of seventeenth-century Popes. Opposite, 
perhaps, one of Fuga's golden-brown churches, with 
windy saints blowing out of their niches, overlooked 
the nereids of a barocco fountain, or an old house 
propped itself like a palsied beggar against a row of 
Corinthian columns; while everywhere flights of steps 
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led up and down to hanging gardens, or under arch- 
ways, and each turn revealed some distant glimpse of 
convent-walk on the slope of a vineyard or of red- 
brown ruins profiled against the dim sea-like reaches 
of the Campagna. 

Afterward, as order was bom out of chaos, and he 
began to thread his way among the centuries, this first 
vision lost something of its intensity; yet it was always, 
to the last, through the eye that Rome possessed him. 
Her life, indeed, as though in obedience to such a set- 
ting, was an external, a spectacular business, from the 
wild animation of the cattle-market in the Forum or 
the hucksters^ traffic among the fountains of the Piazza 
Navona, to the pompous entertainments in the Cardi- 
nals' palaces and the ever-recurring religious ceremonies 
and processions. Pius VI, in the reaction fix)m Ganga- 
nelli's democratic ways, had restored the pomp and cere- 
monial of the Vatican with the reUgious discipline of 
the Holy Office; and never perhaps had Rome been 
more splendid on the surface or more silent and empty 
within. Odo, at times, as he moved through some assem- 
blage of cardinals and nobles, had the sensation of walk- 
ing through a huge reverberating palace, decked out 
with all the splendors of art but long since abandoned 
of men. The superficial animation, the taste for music 
and antiquities, all the dilettantisms of an idle and irre- 
sponsible society, seemed to him to shrivel to dust in the 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

glare of that great past that lit up every comer of the 
present 

Through his own connections, and the influence of de 
Crucis, he saw all that was best not only among the 
nobility, but in that ecclesiastical life now more than 
ever predominant in Rome. Here at last he was face to 
face with the mighty Sphinx, and with the bleaching 
bones of those who had tried to guess her riddle. Wher- 
ever he went those "lost adventurers'* walked the streets 
with him, gliding between the Princes of the Church in 
the ceremonies of Saint Peter's and the Lateran, or 
mingling in the company that ascended the state stair- 
case at some Cardinal's levee. 

He met indeed many accomplished and amiable eccle- 
siastics, but it seemed to him that the more thoughtful 
among them had either acquired their peace of mind at 
the cost of a certain sensitiveness, or had taken refuge 
in a study of the past, as the early hermits fled to the 
desert fix>m the disorders of Antioch and Alexandria. 
None seemed disposed to face the actual problems of 
life, and this attitude of caution or indifference had pro- 
duced a stagnation of thought that contrasted strongly 
with the animation of Sir William Hamilton's circle in 
Naples. The result in Odo's case was a reaction toward 
the pleasures of his age; and of these Rome had but few 
to offer. He spent some months in the study of the an- 
tique, purchasing a few good examples of sculpture for 
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the Duke, and then, without great reluctance, set out 
for Monte Alloro. 

Here he found a changed atmosphere. The Duke wel- 
comed him handsomely, and bestowed the highest praise 
on the rarities he had collected; but for the moment the 
court was ruled by a new favorite, to whom Odo's com- 
ing was obviously luiwelcome. This adroit adventurer, 
whose name was soon to become notorious throughout 
Eiut)pe, had taken the old prince by his darling weak- 
nesses, and Odo, having no mind to share in the excesses 
of the precious couple, seized the first occasion to set out 
again on his travels. 

His course had now become one of aimless wandering; 
for prudence still forbade his return to Pianura, and his 
patron^s indifference left him free to come and go as he 
chose. He had brought from Rome — that cdbergo d*ira 
— a settled melancholy of spirit, which sought refuge in 
such distractions as the moment offered. In such a mood 
change of scene was a necessity, and he resolved to em- 
ploy the next months in visiting several of the mid- 
Italian cities. Toward Florence he was specially drawn 
by the fact that Alfieri now lived there; but, as often 
happens after such separations, the reunion was a disap- 
pointment. Alfieri, indeed, warmly welcomed his friend; 
but he was engrossed in his dawning pcussion for the 
Countess of Albany, and that lady^s pitiable situation 
excluded all other interests from his mind. To Odo, to 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

whom the years had brought an increasing detachment, 
this self-absorption seemed an arrest in growth; for Al- 
fieri'^s early worship of liberty had not yet fomid its 
destined channel of expression, and for the moment his 
enthusiasms had shrunk to the compass of a romantic 
adventure. The friends parted after a few weeks of un- 
satisfying intercourse; and it was luider the influence of 
this final disenchantment that Odo set out for Venice. 

It was the vintage season, and the travellers descended 
from the Apennines on a landscape diversified by the 
picturesque incidents of the grape-gathering. On every 
slope stood some villa with awnings spread, and merry 
parties were picnicking among the vines or watching 
the peasants at their work. Cantapresto, who had shown 
great reluctance at leaving Monte Alloro, where, as he 
declared, he found himself as snug as an eel in a pasty, 
was now all eagerness to press forward; and Odo was in 
the mood to allow any influence to decide his course. 
He had an invaluable cornier in Cantapresto, whose 
enormous pretensions generally assured his master the 
best lodgings and the fastest conveyance to be obtained, 
and who was never happier than when outwitting a rival 
emissary, or bribing a landlord to serve up on Odo's ta- 
ble the repast ordered in advance for some distinguished 
traveller. His impatience to reach Venice, which he de- 
scribed as the scene of all conceivable delights, had on 
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this occasion tripled his zeal, and they travelled rapidly 
to Padua, where he had engaged a burchiello for the 
passage down the Brenta. Here however he found he 
had been outdone at his own game; for the servant of 
an English Duke had captiu^d the burchiello and 
embarked his noble party before Cantapresto reached 
the wharf. This being the season of the villeggiatura, 
when the Venetian nobility were exchanging visits on 
the mainland, every conveyance was in motion and no 
other boat to be had for a week; while as for the "bu- 
centaur**^ or pubUc bark, which was just then getting 
under way, it was already packed to the gunwale with 
Jews, pedlars and such vermin, and the captain swore 
by the three thousand relics of Saint Justina that he 
had no room on board for so much as a hungry flea. 

Odo, who had accompanied Cantapresto to the water- 
side, was listening to these assurances and to the so- 
prano^s vain invectives, when a well-dressed young man 
stepped up to the group. This gentleman, whose accent 
and dress showed him to be a Frenchman of quality, 
told Odo that he was come from Yicenza, whither he 
had gone to engage a company of actors for his friend 
the Frocuratore Br^ who was entertaining a distin- 
guished company at his villa on the Brenta; that he 
was now returning with his players, and that he would 
be glad to convey Odo so far on his road to Venice. 
His friend's seat, he added, was near Oriago, but a few 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

miles above Fusina, where a public conveyance might 
always be fomid; so that Odo would doubtless be able 
to proceed the same night to Venice. 

This civil offer Odo at once accepted, and the French- 
man thereupon suggested that, as the party was to set 
out the next day at sunrise, the two should sup to- 
gether and pass the intervening hours in such diversions 
as the city offered. They returned to the inn, where the 
actors were also lodged, and Odo^s host having ordered 
a handsome supper, proposed, with his guest^s permis- 
sion, to invite the leading members of the company to 
partake of it. He departed on this errand; and great 
was Odo's wonder, when the door reopened, to discover, 
among the party it admitted, his old acquaintance of 
Vercelli, the Count of Castelrovinata The latter, whose 
dress and person had been refiu*bished, and who now 
wore an air of rakish prosperity, greeted him with evi- 
dent pleasure, and, while their entertainer was engaged 
in seating the ladies of the company, gave him a brief 
account of the situation. 

The yoimg French gentleman (whom he named as 
the Marquis de Cceur- Volant) had come to Italy some 
months previously on the grand tour, and having fallen 
a victim to the charms of Venice, had declared that, in- 
stead of continuing on his travels, he meant to com- 
plete his education in that famous school of pleasure. 
Being master of his own fortune, he had hired a palace 
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on the Grand Canal, had despatched his governor (a sim- 
ple archaeologist) on a mission of exploration to Sicily 
and Greece, and had devoted himself to an assiduous 
study of Venetian manners. Among those contributing 
to his instruction was Mirandolina of Chioggia, who 
had just completed a successful engagement at the 
theatre of San Moise in Venice. Wishing to detain her 
in the neighborhood, her adorer had prevailed on his 
friend the Procuratore to give a series of comedies at 
his villa of Bellocchio and had engaged to provide him 
with a good company of performers. Miranda was of 
course selected as prima amorosa; and the Marquess, 
imder Castelrovinato's guidance, had then set out to 
collect the rest of the company. This he had succeeded 
in doing, and was now returning to Bellocchio, where 
Miranda was to meet them. Odo was the more diverted 
at the hazard which had brought him into such com- 
pany, as the Procuratore Br^ was one of the noblemen 
to whom the old Duke had specially recommended him. 
On learning this, the Marquess urged him to present 
his letter of introduction on arriving at Bellocchio, 
where the Procuratore, who was noted for hospitality 
to strangers, would doubtless insist on his joining the 
assembled party. This Odo declined to do; but his curi- 
osity to see Mirandolina made him hope that chance 
would soon throw him in the Procuratore's way. 

Meanwhile supper was succeeded by music and danc- 
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ing, and the company broke up only in time to proceed 
to the landing-place where their barge awaited them. 
This was a private burchiello of the Procuratore's, with 
a commodious antechamber for the servants, and a cabin 
cushioned in damask. Into this agreeable retreat the 
actresses were packed with all their bags and band-boxes; 
and their travelling-cloaks being rolled into pillows, 
they were soon asleep in a huddle of tumbled finery. 
Odo and his host preferred to take the air on deck. 
The sun was rising above the willow-clad banks of the 
Brenta, and it was pleasant to glide in the clear early 
light past sleeping gardens and villas, and vineyards 
where the peasants were already at work. The wind set- 
ting from the sea, they travelled slowly and had fiill 
leisure to view the succession of splendid seats inter- 
spersed with gardens, the thriving villages and the 
poplar-groves festooned with vines. Coeur- Volant spoke 
eloquently of the pleasiu'es to be enjoyed in this de- 
lightful season of the villeggiatura. "Nowhere,'' said he, 
^'do people take their pleasures so easily and naturally 
as in Venice. My countrymen claim a superiority in this 
art, and it may be they possessed it a generation ago. 
But what a morose place is France become since phi- 
losophy has dethroned enjoyment! If you go on a visit 
to one of our noblemen's seats, what do you find there, 
I ask? Cards, comedies, music, the opportunity for an 
agreeable intrigue in the society of your equals? No — 
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but a hostess engaged in suckling and bathing her 
brats, or in studying chemistry and optics with some 
dirty school-master, who is given the seat of honor at 
table and a pavilion in the park to which he may re- 
tire when weary of the homage of the great; while as 
for the host, he is busy discussing education or political 
economy with his unfortunate guests, if, indeed, he is 
not dragging them through leagues of mud or dust 
to inspect his latest experiments in forestry and agri- 
culture, or to hear a pack of snuffling school-children 
singing hjrmns to the God of Nature! And what,'' he 
continued, *Ms the result of it all? The peasants are 
starving, the taxes are increasing, the virtuous land- 
lords are ruining themselves in farming on scientific 
principles, the trades-people are grumbling because 
the nobility do not spend their money in Paris, the 
court is dull, the clergy are furious, the queen mopes, 
the king is frightened, and the whole French people 
are yawning themselves to death from Normandy to 
Provence.'' 

"Yes," said Castelrovinato with his melancholy smile, 
**the test of success is to have had one's money's worth; 
but experience, which is dried pleasure, is at best a 
dusty diet, as we know. Yonder, in a fold of those 
hills," he added, pointing to the cluster of Euganean 
mountains just faintly pencilled above the plain, "lies 
the little fief from which I take my name. Acre by acre, 
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tree by tree, it has gone to pay for my experiments, 
not in agriculture but in pleasure; and whenever I look 
over at it from Venice and reflect on what each rood of 
groimd or trunk of tree has purchased, I wonder to see 
my life as bare as ever for all that I have spent on it.**^ 

The young Marquess shrugged his shoulders. ^^And 
would your life,^ he exclaimed, ^have been a whit less 
bare had you passed it in your ancestral keep among 
those windy hills, in the company of swine-herds cmd 
charcoal burners, with a milk-maid for your mistress 
€md the village priest for your partner at picquet?'' 

"Perhaps not,^ the other agreed. "There is a tale of 
a man who spent his life in wishing he had lived difier- 
ently ; and when he died he was surrounded by a throng 
of spectral shapes, each one exactly like the other, who, 
on his asking what they were, replied: *We are all the 
difierent lives you might have lived.'^ 

"If you are going to tell ghost-stories,^ cried Cceur- 
Volant, "I will call for a bottle of Canary!^ 

"And I,'' rejoined the Count good-humoredly, "will 
try to coax the ladies forth with a song;'' and picking 
up his lute, which always lay within reach, he began to 
sing in the Venetian dialect: 

There's a villa on the Brenta 
Where the statues , white as snow. 
All along the waier4errace 
Perch like sea-gulls in a row. 
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There* 9 a garden on the Brenta 
Where the fairest ladies meet, 
Picking roses from the trellis 
For the gallants at their fed. 

There's an arbor on the Brenta 
Made of yews that screen the light, 
Where I kiss my girl at midday 
Close as lovers kiss at night. 

The players soon emerged at this call €uid presently 
the deck resounded with song and laughter. All the 
company were familiar with the Venetian barcaroles, 
and Castelrovinato^s lute was passed from hand to hand, 
as one after another, incited by the Marquesses Canary, 
tried to recall some favorite measure — La biondina in 
govdoleta or Gym-da, che beUa luna. 

Meanwhile life was stirring in the villages and gar- 
dens, and groups of people were appearing on the terraces 
overhanging the water. Never had Odo beheld a livelier 
scena The pillared houses with their rows of statues 
and vases, the flights of marble steps descending to 
the gilded river-gates, where boats bobbed against the 
landings and boatmen gossiped in the shade of their 
awnings; the marble trellises hung with grapes, the gar- 
dens where parterres of flowers and parti-colored gravel 
alternated with the dusk of tunnelled yew- walks; the 
company playing at bowls in the long alleys, or drink- 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

ing chocolate in gazebos above the river; the boats dart- 
ing hither and thither on the stream itself, the travelling- 
chaises, market-wagons and pannier-asses crowding the 
causeway along the bank — all were mut)lled before him 
with as little effect of reality as the episodes woven in 
some gaily-tinted tapestry. Even the peasants in the 
vineyards seemed as merry and thoughtless as the qual- 
ity in their gardens. The vintage-time is the holiday of 
the rural year and the day's work was interspersed with 
frequent intervals of relaxation. At the villages where 
the burchiello touched for refreshments, handsome 
young women in scarlet bodices came on board with 
baskets of melons, grapes, figs and peaches; and imder 
the trellises on the landings, lads and girls with flowers 
in their hair were dancing the 7ru)njirrina to the rattle 
of tambourines or the chant of some wandering ballad- 
singer. These scenes were so engaging to the comedians 
that they could not be restrained fixjm going ashore and 
mingling in the village diversions; and the Marquess, 
though impatient to rejoin his divinity, was too volatile 
not to be drawn into the adventure. The whole party 
accordingly disembarked, and were presently giving an 
exhibition of their talents to the assembled idlers, the 
Pantaloon, Harlequin and Doctor enacting a comical 
intermezzo which Cantapresto had that morning com- 
posed for them, while Scaramouch and Columbine 
joined the dancers^ apd the rest of the company, seiz- 

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ing on a train of donkeys laden with vegetables for the 
Venetian market, stripped these patient animals of their 
panniers, and moimting them bareback, started a Corso 
around the village square amid the invectives of the 
drivers and the applause of the crowd. 

Day was declining when the Marquess at last suc- 
ceeded in driving his flock to their fold, and the moon 
sent a quiver of brightness across the water as the bur- 
chiello touched at the landing of a villa set amid close- 
massed foliage high above the river. Gardens peopled 
with statues descended from the portico of the villa to 
the platform on the water^s edge, where a throng of 
boatmen in the Procuratore's livery hurried forward to 
receive the Marquess and his companions. The come- 
dians, sobered by the magnificence of their surroimd- 
ings, followed their leader Uke awe-struck children. Light 
and music poured from the long fa9ade overhead, but 
the lower gardens lay hushed and dark, the air fragrant 
with imseen flowers, the late moon just burnishing the 
edges of the laurel-thickets from which, now and again, 
a nightingale^s song gushed in a fountain of sound. Odo, 
spell-bound, followed the others without a thought of 
his own share in the adventure. Never before had beauty 
so ministered to every sense. He felt himself lost in his 
surroimdings, absorbed in the scent and murmur of the 
night. 

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III 

ON the upper terrace a dozen lacqueys with wax- 
lights hastened out to receive the travellers. A 
laughing group followed, headed by a tall vivacious 
woman covered with jewels, whom Odo guessed to be 
the Procuratessa Bra, The Marquess, hastening forward, 
kissed the lady^s hand, and turned to summon the ac- 
tors, who himg back at the farther end of the terrace. 
The light from the windows and from the lacqueys' 
tapers fell full on the motley band, and Odo, roused to 
the singularity of his position, was about to seek shelter 
behind the Pantaloon when he heard a cry of recogni- 
tion, and Mirandolina, darting out of the Procuratessa's 
circle, fell at that lady's feet with a whispered word. 

The Procuratessa at once advanced with a smile of 
surprise and bade the cavaliere Valsecca welcome. See- 
ing Odo's embarrassment, she added that his Highness of 
Monte Alloro had already apprised her of the cavaliere's 
coming, and that she and her husband had the day be- 
fore despatched a messenger to Venice to enquire if he 
were already there and to invite him to the villa. At 
the same moment a middle-aged man with an air of 
careless kindly strength emerged from the house and 
greeted Odo. 

"I am happy," said he bowing, "to receive at Bel- 
locchio a member of the princely house of Pianura; 
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and your excelleiK^ will no doubt be as well-pleased as 
ourselves that accident enables us to make acquaintance 
without the formalities of an introduction.^ 

This, then, was the fieimous Procuratore Brit, whose 
house had given thiee Doges to Venice, and who was 
himself regarded as the most powerful if not the most 
scrupulous noble of his day. Odo had heard many tales 
of his singularities, for in a generation of elegant tri- 
flers his figure stood out with the ruggedness of a 
granite boulder in a clipped and gravelled garden. To 
hereditary wealth cmd influence he added a love of 
power seconded by great political sagacity and an in- 
flexible wilL If his means were not always above sus- 
picion they at least tended to statesmanlike ends, €md 
in his public capacity he was faithful to the highest 
interests of the state. Reports diflered as to his private 
use of his authority. He was noted for his lavish way 
of living, and for a hospitality which distinguished him 
from the majority of his class, who, however showy in 
their establishments, seldom received strangers, cmd en- 
tertained each other only on the most ceremonious 
occasions. The Procuratore kept open house both in 
Venice and on the Brenta, and in his drawing-rooms 
the foreign traveller was welcomed as freely as in Paris 
or London. Here, too, were to be met the wits, musi- 
cians and literati whom a traditional morgite still ex- 
cluded from many aristocratic houses. Yet in spite of 
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his hospitality (or perhaps because of it) the Procura- 
tore, as Odo knew, was the butt of the very poets he 
entertained, and the worst-satirized man in Venice. It 
was his misfortune to be in love with his wife; and this 
state of mind (in itself sufficiently ridiculous) and the 
shifts and compromises to which it reduced him, were a 
source of endless amusement to the humorists. Nor were 
graver rumors wanting; for it was known that the Pro- 
curatore, so proof against other persuasions, was helpless 
in his wife^s hands, and that honest men had been imdone 
and scoimdrels exalted at a nod of the beautiful Procu- 
ratessa. That lady, as famous in her way as her hus- 
band, was noted for quite different qualities; so that, 
according to one satirist, her hospitality began where 
his ended, and the Albergo Brk (the nickname their 
paUce went by) was advertised in the lampoons of the 
day as furnishing both bed and board. In some respects, 
however, the tastes of the noble couple agreed, both 
delighting in music, wit, good company, and all the 
adornments of life; while, with regard to their private 
conduct, it doubtless suffered by being viewed through 
the eyes of a narrow €md trivial nobility, apt to look 
with suspicion on any deviation from the customs of 
their class. 

Such was the household in which Odo foimd himself 
unexpectedly included. He learned that his hosts were 
in the act of entertaining the English Duke who had 
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captured his burchiello that morning; and having ex- 
changed his travelling-dress for a more suitable toilet 
he was presently conducted to the private theatre where 
the company had gathered to witness an improvised per- 
formance by Mirandolina cmd the newly-arrived actors. , 

The Procuratessa at once beckoned him to the row 
of gilt arm-chairs where she sat ¥rith the noble Duke 
and several ladies of distinction. The little theatre 
sparkled with wax-lights reflected in the facets of glass 
chandeliers and in the jewels of the richly-habited com- 
pany, and Odo was struck by the refined brilliancy of 
the scene. Before he had time to look about him the 
curtains of the stage were drawn back, cmd Miran- 
dolina flashed into view, daring and radiant as ever, 
and dressed with an elegance which spoke well for the 
Uberality of her new protector. She was as much at her 
ease as before the vulgar audience of Vercelli, and spite 
of the distinguished eyes fixed upon her, her smiles and 
sallies were pointedly addressed to Odo. This made him 
the object of the Procuratessa^s banter, but had an 
opposite effect on the Marquess, who fixed him with an 
irritated eye and fidgeted restlessly in his seat as the 
performance went on. 

When the curtain fell the Procuratessa led the com- 
pany to the circular saloon which, as in most villas of 
the Venetian mainland, formed the central point of the 
house. If Odo had been charmed by the graceful deoo- 
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rations of the theatre, he was dazzled by the airy splen- 
dor of this apartment. Danoe-music was pouring from 
the arched recesses above the doorways, cmd chandeliers 
of colored Murano glass difiused a soft brightness over 
the pilasters of the stuccoed walls, and the floor of in- 
laid marbles on which couples were rapidly forming for 
the contra-dance. His eye, however, was soon drawn 
from these to the ceiling which overarched the dancers 
with what seemed like an Olympian revel reflected in 
sunset clouds. Over the gilt balustrade surmoimting 
the cornice lolled the figures of fauns, bacchantes, 
nereids and tritons, hovered over by a cloud of amorini 
blown like rose-leaves across a rosy sky, while in the 
centre of the dome Apollo bimst in his chariot through 
the mists of dawn, escorted by a fantastic procession of 
the human races. These alien subjects of the sim — a 
frir-clad Laplander, a tiurbaned figure on a dromedary, 
a blackamoor and a plumed American Indian — were in 
turn surroimded by a rout of Maenads and Silenuses, 
whose flushed advance was checked by the breaking of 
cool green waves, through which boys wreathed with 
coral and seaweed disported themselves among shoals of 
flashing dolphins. It was as though the genius of Plea- 
sure had poured all the riches of his inexhaustible realm 
on the heads of the revellers below. 

The Procuratessa brought Odo to earth by remark- 
ing that it was a masterpiece of the divine Tiepolo he 
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was admiring. She added that at Bellocchio all formali- 
ties were dispensed with, and begged him to observe 
that, in the rooms opening into the saloon, recreations 
were provided for every taste. In one of these apart- 
ments silver trays were set out with sherbets, cakes and 
fruit cooled in snow, while in another stood gaming- 
tables around which the greater number of the com- 
pany were already gathering for tresette. A third room 
was devoted to music; €md hither Mirandolina, who was 
evidently allowed a familiarity of intercourse not ac- 
corded to the other comedians, had withdrawn with 
the pacified Marquess, and perched on the arm of a 
high gilt chair was pinching the strings of a guitar and 
humming the first notes of a boatman^s song. . . 

After completing the circuit of the rooms Odo stepped 
out on the terrace, which was now bathed in the white- 
ness of a soaring moon. The colonnades detached 
against silver-misted foliage, the gardens spectrally 
outspread, seemed to enclose him in a magic circle of 
loveliness which the first ray of daylight must dispel. 
He wandered on, drawn to the depths of shade on the 
lower terraces. The hush grew deeper, the murmur of 
the river more mysterious. A yew-arbor invited him 
and he seated himself on the bench niched in its in- 
most dusk. Seen through the black arch of the arbor 
the moonlight lay like snow on parterres and statues. 
He thought of Maria Clementina, €uid of the delight 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

she would have felt in such a scene as he had just left. 
Then the remembrance of Mirandolina^s blandishments 
stole over him, and spite of himself he smiled at the 
Marquess's discomfiture. Though he was in no humor 
for an intrigue his fancy was not proof against the ro- 
mance of his surroundings, cuid it seemed to him that 
Miranda's eyes had never been so bright or her smile 
so full of provocation. No wonder FraMcmto followed 
her like a lost soul and the Marquess abandoned Rome 
and Baalbec to sit at the feet of such a teacher! Had 
not that light philosopher after all chosen the true way 
and guessed the Sphinx's riddle? Why should to-day 
always be jilted for to-morrow, sensation sacrificed to 
thought? 

As he sat revolving these questions the yew-branches 
seemed to stir, and from some deeper recess of shade a 
figure stole to his side. He started, but a hand was laid 
on his lips and he was gently forced back into his seat. 
Dazzled by the outer moonlight he could just guess the 
outline of the figure silently pressed against his own. He 
sat speechless, yielding to the charm of the moment, 
till suddenly he felt a rapid kiss and the visitor van- 
ished as mysteriously as she had come. He sprang up 
to follow, but inclination failed with his first step. Let 
the spell of mystery remain imbroken! He sank down 
on the seat again, lulled by dreamy musings. • . 

When he looked up the moonlight had faded and he 
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felt a chill in the air. He walked out on the terrace. 
The moon hung low and the tree-tops were beginning 
to tremble. The villa-front was grey, with oblongs of 
yellow light marking the windows of the ball-room. As 
he looked up at it, the dance-music ceased and not a 
sound was heard but the stir of the foliage and the 
murmur of the river against its banks. Then, frt)m a 
loggia above the central portico, a woman^s clear con- 
tralto notes took flight: 

Before the yellorv dawn is up, 
With pomp of shield and shaft, 
Drink we of Night's Jast-ebbing cup 
One last delicious draught. 

The shadowy wine of Night is sweet, 
With subtle slumbrous fumes 
Crushed by the Hours' melodious feet 
From bloodless elder-blooms, . . 

The days at Bellocchio passed in a series of festivi- 
ties. The mornings were spent in drinking chocolate, 
strolling in the gardens and visiting the fish-ponds, 
meanders and other wonders of the villa; thence the 
greater number of guests were soon drawn to the card- 
tables, fit)m which they rose only to dine; and after an 
elaborate dinner prepared by a French cook the whole 
company set out to explore the cotmtry or exchange 
visits with the hosts of the adjoining villas. Each even- 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

ing brought some fresh diversion: a comedy or an ope- 
retta in the miniature theatre, an dL fresco banquet on 
the terrace, or a ball attended by the principal families 
of the neighborhood. Odo soon contrived to reassm« 
the Marquess as to his designs upon Miranda, and when 
CoBur- Volant was not at cards the two young men spent 
much of their time together. The Marquess was never 
tired of extolling the taste and ingenuity with which 
the Venetians planned and carried out their recreations. 
**Nature herself,'' said he, "seems the accomplice of 
their merry-making, and in no other surroundings could 
man's natural craving for diversion find so graceful and 
poetic an expression." 

The scene on which they looked out seemed to con- 
firm his words. It was the last evening of their stay at 
Bellocchio, and the Procuratessa had planned a musical 
festival on the river. Festoons of colored lanterns wound 
from the portico to the water; and opposite the land- 
ing lay the Procuratore's Bucentaur, a great barge htmg 
with crimson velvet. In the prow were stationed the 
comedians, in airy mjrthological dress, and as the guests 
stepped on board they were received by Miranda, a 
rosy Venus who, escorted by Mars and Adonis, recited 
an ode composed by Cantapresto in the Procuratessa's 
honor. A banquet was spread in the deck-house, which 
was hung with silk arras and Venetian mirrors, and, 
while the guests feasted, dozens of little boats decked 
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with lights and filled with musicians flitted about the 
Bucentaur like a swarm of musical fireflies. . . 

The next day Odo accompanied the Procuratessa to 
Venice. Had he been a traveller from beyond the Alps 
he could hardly have been more imprepared for the 
spectacle that awaited him. In aspect and customs 
Venice differed almost as much frx)m other Italian cities 
as from those of the rest of Europe. From the fanciful 
stone embroidery of her churches and palaces to a hun- 
dred small singularities in manners and dress — the full- 
bottomed wigs and long gowns of the nobles, the black 
mantles and head-draperies of the ladies, the white 
masks worn abroad by both sexes, the publicity of so- 
cial Ufe imder the arcades of the Piazza, the extraordi- 
nary freedom of intercoimse in the ccumi, gaming-rooms 
and theatres — the city proclaimed, in every detail of 
life and architectin^, her independence of any tradi- 
tion but her own. This was the more singular as Saint 
Mark^s square had for centiuies been the meeting-place 
of East and West, and the goal of artists, scholars and 
pleasure-seekers from all parts of the world. Indeed, as 
Coeur- Volant pointed out, the Venetian customs almost 
appeared to have been devised for the convenience of 
strangers. The privilege of going masked at almost all 
seasons and the enforced uniformity of dress, which in 
itself provided a kind of incognito, made the place sin- 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

gularl J fevoiable to every kind of intrigae and amuse- 
ment; while the mild temper of the people and the 
watchfulness of the police prevented the public disor- 
ders that such license might have occasioned. These 
seeming anomalies aboimded on every side. From the 
gaming-table where a tinker might set a ducat against 
a prince it was but a few steps to the BrogiiOy or arcade 
under the ducal palace, into which no plebeian might 
intrude while the nobility walked there. The great la- 
dies, who were subject to strict sumptuary laws, and 
might not display their jewels or try the new French 
fashions but on the sly, were yet privileged at all hours 
to go abroad alone in their gondolas. No society was 
more haughty and exclusive in its traditions, yet the 
mask levelled all classes and permitted, during the 
greater part of the year, an equality of intercourse im- 
dreamed of in other cities; while the nobles, though 
more magnificently housed than in any other capital 
of Europe, generally sought amusement at the public 
casini or assembly-rooms instead of receiving company 
in their own palaces. Such were but a few of the con- 
tradictions in a city where the theatres were named 
after the neighboring churches, where there were innu- 
merable religious foimdations but scarce an ecclesiastic 
to be met in company, and where the ladies of tiie 
laity dressed like nuns, while the nims in the aristo- 
cratic convents went in gala habits and with uncovered 
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heads. No wonder that to the bewildered stranger the 
Venetians seemed to keep perpetual carnival and Venice 
herself to be as it were the mere stage of some huge 
comic interlude. 

To Odo the setting was even more astonishing than 
the performance. Never had he seen pleasure and grace 
so happily allied, all the arts of life so combined in the 
single effort after enjoyment. Here was not a mere ten- 
dency to linger on the surface, but the essence of super- 
ficiality itself; not an ignoring of what lies beneath, but 
an elimination of it: as though all hmnan experience 
should be beaten thin and spread out before the eye 
like some brilliant tenuous plaque of Etruscan gold. 
And in this science of pleasure — mere jeweller^s work 
though it were — the greatest artists had collaborated, 
each contributing his page to the philosophy of enjoy- 
ment in the form of some radiant allegory flowering 
from palace wall or ceiling like the enlarged reflection 
of the life beneath it. Nowhere was the mind arrested 
by a question or an idea. Thought slunk away like an 
unmasked guest at the ridotto. Sensation ruled supreme, 
and each moment was an iridescent bubble fresh-blown 
from the lips of fimcy. 

Odo brought to the spectacle the humor best fitted 

for its enjoyment. His weariness and discouragement 

sought refuge in the emotional satisfaction of the hour. 

Here at least the old problem of living had been solved, 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

and from the patrician taking the air in his gondola to 
the gondolier himself, gambling and singing on the 
water-steps of his master^s palace, all seemed equally 
satisfied with the solution. Now if ever was the time to 
cry "halt!^ to the present, to forget the travelled road 
and take no thought for the morrow. . . 

The months passed rapidly and agreeably. The Pro- 
curatessa was the most amiable of guides, and in her 
company Odo enjoyed the best that Venice had to offer, 
from the matchless music of the chinx^hes and hospitals 
to the petUs soupers in the private casini of the nobility; 
while Cceur- Volant and Castelrovinato introduced him 
to scenes where even a lady of the Procuratessa^s in- 
trepidity might not venture. 

Such a life left little time for thoughtfrd pleasures; 
nor did Odo find in the society about him any sympathy 
with his more personal tastes. At first he jdelded will- 
ingly enough to the pressure of his surroundings, glad 
to escape from thoughts of the past and speculations 
about the future; but it was impossible to him to lose 
his footing in such an element, and at times he felt the 
lack of such companionship as de Crucis had given him. 
There was no society in Venice corresponding with the 
polished circles of Milan or Naples, or with the academic 
class in such University towns as Padua and Pavia. The 
few Venetians destined to be remembered among those 
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THE CHOICE 

who had contributed to the intellectual advancement 
of Italy vegetated in obscurity, suffering not so much 
from religious persecution — for the Inquisition had 
little power in Venice — as from the incorrigible indif- 
ference of a society which ignored all who did not 
contribute to its amusement. Odo indeed might have 
sought out these imhonored prophets, but that all the 
influences about him set the other way, and that he 
was falling more and more into the habit of running 
with the tide. Now and then, however, a vague ennui 
drove him to one of the book-shops which, throughout 
Italy, were the chief meeting-places of students and 
authors. On one of these occasions the dealer invited 
him into a private room where he kept some rare vol- 
umes, and here Odo was surprised to meet Andreoni, 
the liberal bookseller of Pianura. 

Andreoni at first seemed somewhat disconcerted by 
the meeting; but presently recovering his confidence, he 
told Odo that he had been recently banished from Pia- 
nura, the cause of his banishment being the publication 
of a book on taxation that was supposed to reflect on 
the fiscal system of the duchy. Though he did not name 
the author, Odo at once suspected Gamba; but on his 
enquiring if the latter had also been banished, Andreoni 
merely replied that he had been dismissed from his post, 
and had left Pianura. The bookseller went on to say 
that he had come to Venice with the idea of setting up 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

his press either there or in Padua, where his wife^s family 
lived. Odo was eager to hear more; but Andreoni cour- 
teously declined to wait on him at his lodgings, on the 
plea that it might harm them both to be seen together. 
They agreed, however, to meet in San Zaccaria after 
low mass the next morning, and here Andreoni gave 
Odo a fuller report of recent events in the duchy. 

It appeared that in the incessant see-saw of party 
influences the Chinx^h had once more gained on the 
liberals. Trescorre was out of favor, the Dominican had 
begun to show his hand more openly, and the Duke, 
more than ever apprehensive about his health, was seek- 
ing to conciliate heaven by his renewed persecution of 
the reformers. In the general upheaval even Crescent! 
had nearly lost his place; and it was rumored that he 
kept it only through the intervention of the Pope, who 
had represented to the Duke that the persecution of a 
scholar already famous throughout Europe would reflect 
little credit on the Church. 

As for Gamba, Andreoni, though imwilling to admit 
a knowledge of his exact whereabouts, assiu*ed Odo that 
he was well and had not lost courage. At court matters 
remained much as usual. The Duchess, surrounded by 
her familiars, had entered on a new phase of mad ex- 
penditure, draining the exchequer to indulge her private 
whims, filling her apartments with mountebanks and 
players, and borrowing from courtiers and servants to 
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THE CHOICE 

keep her creditors from the door. Trescorre was no 
longer able to check her extravagance, and his influence 
with the Duke being on the wane, the court was once 
more the scene of imseemly scandals and disorders. 

The only new figure to appear there since Odo^s de- 
parture was that of the little princess governor, who had 
come from Rome a few months previously to superin- 
tend the heir'^s education, which was foimd to have been 
grievously neglected under his former masters. This was 
an ecclesiastic, an ex-Jesuit as some said, but without 
doubt a man of parts, and apparently of more tolerant 
views than the other chinx^hmen about the court 

"But,^ Andreoni added, "your excellency may chance 
to recall him; for he is the same abate de Cruds who 
was sent to Pianura by the Holy OiSoe to arrest the 
Grerman astrologer.*" 

Odo heard him with surprise. He had had no news 
of de Crucis since their parting in Rome, where, as he 
supposed, the latter was to remain for some years in the 
service of Prince Bracciano. Odo was at a loss to con- 
ceive how or why the Jesuit had come to Pianura; but, 
whatever his reasons for being there, it was certain that 
his influence must make itself felt far beyond the rang^ 
of his immediate duties. Whether this influence would 
be exerted for good or ill it was impossible to fore^ 
cast; but much as Odo admired de Crucis, he could noi 
forget that the Jesuit, by his own avowal, was stifl 
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the servant of the greatest organized opposition to 
moral and intellectual freedom that the world had ever 
known. That this opposition was not always fiwtively 
manifested Odo was well aware. He knew that the 
Jesuit spirit moved in many directions and that its 
action was often more beneficial than that of its oppo- 
nents; but it remained an incalculable element in the 
composition of human affairs, and one the more to be 
feared since, in ceasing to have a material existence, it 
had acquired the dread pervasiveness of an idea. 



With the Epiphany the wild carnival-season set in. 
Nothing could surpass the excesses of this mad time. 
All classes seemed bitten by the tarantula of mirth, 
every gondola hid an intrigue, the patrician^'s tabarro 
concealed a noble lady, the feminine hood and doak a 
young spark bent on mystification, the fiiar^s habit 
a man of pleasure and the nun^s veil a lady of the town. 
The Piazza swarmed with merry-makers of all degrees. 
The square itself was taken up by the booths of huck- 
sters, rope-dancers and astrologers, while promenaders 
in travesty thronged the arcades, and the ladies of the 
nobility, in their white masks and black zendaletti, sur- 
veyed the scene from the windows of the assembly-rooms 
in the Procuratie, or, threading the crowd on the arms 
of their gallants, visited the various peep-shows and 
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THE CHOICE 

flocked about the rhinoceros exhibited in a great canvas 
tent on the Piazzetta. The characteristic contrasts of 
Venetian life seemed to be emphasized by the vagaries 
of the carnival, and Odo never ceased to be diverted by 
the sight of a long line of masqueraders in every kind 
of comic disguise kneeUng devoutly before the bril- 
liantly-lit shrine of the Virgin under the arches of the 
Procuratie, while the friar who led their devotions in- 
terrupted his litany whenever the quack on an adjoin- 
ing platform began to bawl through a tin trumpet the 
praise of his miraculous pills. 

The moimting madness culminated on Giovedi Grasso, 
the last Thursday before Lent, when the Piazzetta be- 
came the scene of ceremonies in which the Doge himself 
took part These opened with the decapitation of three 
bulls: a rite said to commemorate some long-forgot- 
ten dispute between the inveterate enemies, Venice and 
Aquileia. The bulls, preceded by halberdiers and trum- 
peters, and surrounded by armed attendants, were led 
in state before the ducal palace, and the executioner, 
practised in his bloody work, struck off each head with 
a single stroke of his huge sword« This slaughter was 
succeeded by pleasanter sights, such as the famous Fo2a, 
or flight of a boy fix>m the bell-tower of Saint Mark's 
to a window of the palace, where he presented a nose- 
gay to his Serenity and was caught up again to his airy 
vaulting-ground. After this ingenious feat came another 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

called the "Force of Hercules,*" given by a band of 
youths who, building themselves into a kind of pyra- 
mid, shifted their postures with inexhaustible agility, 
while bursts of fireworks wove yellow arches through 
the midday light. Meanwhile the crowds in the streets 
fled this way and that as a throng of uproarious young 
fellows drove before them the bulls that were to be 
baited in the open squares; and wherever a recessed 
doorway or the angle of a building afforded shelter 
from the rout, some posture-maker or ballad-singer had 
gathered a crowd about his carpet. 

Ash Wednesday brought about a dramatic transfor- 
mation. Every travesty laid aside, every tent and stall 
swept away, the people again gathered in the Piazza 
to receive the ashes of penitence on their heads. The 
chiUY^hes now became the chief centres of interest. 
Venice was noted for her sacred music and for the 
lavish illumination of her favorite shrines and chapels; 
and few religious spectacles were more impressive than 
the Forty Hours' devotion in the wealthier churches 
of the city. All the magic of music, painting and sculp- 
ture were combined in the service of religion, and Odo's 
sense of the dramatic quality of the Catholic rites found 
gratification in the moving scenes where, amid the im- 
perishable splendors of his own creation, man owned 
himself but dust. Never before had he been so alive to 
the symbolism of the penitential season, so awed by the 
[62] 



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THE CHOICE 

beauty and symmetry of that great structure of the 
Liturgical Year that leads the soul up, step by step, to 
the awful heights of Calvary. The very carelessness of 
those about him seemed to deepen the solemnity of the 
scenes enacted — as though the Church, after all her 
centuries of dominion, were still, as in those early days, 
but a voice crying in the wilderness. 

The Easter bells ushered in the reign of another 
spirit. If the carnival folly was spent, the joy of re- 
turning life replaced it. After the winter diversions 
of cards, concerts and theatres, came the excursions 
to the island-gardens of the lagoon and the evening 
promenade of the Jresca on the Grand Canal. Now the 
palace-windows were hung with awnings, the oleanders 
in the balconies grew rosy against the sea-worn marble, 
and yellow snap-dragons blossomed from the crumbling 
walls. The market-boats brought early fruits and vege- 
tables from the Brenta and roses and giUy-flowers from 
the Paduan gardens; and when the wind set from shore 
it carried with it the scent of lime-blossoms and flower- 
ing fields. Now also was the sea.son when the great civic 
and religious processions took place, dyeing the water 
with sunset hues as they swept from the steps of the 
Piazzetta to San Giorgio, the Redentore or the Salute. 
In the fashionable convents the nuns celebrated the fes- 
tivals of their patron saints with musical and dramatic 
entertainments to which secular visitors were invited. 
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These entertainments were a noted feature of Vene- 
tian life, and the subject of much scandalous comment 
among visitors from beyond the Alps. The nuns of the 
stricter orders were as closely cloistered as elsewhere; 
but in the convents of Santa Croce, Santa Chiara, and 
a few others, mostly filled by the daughters of the no- 
bility, an tmusual liberty prevailed. It was known that 
the inmates had taken the veil for family reasons, and 
to the indulgent Venetian temper it seemed natural that 
their seclusion should be made as little irksome as pos- 
sible. As a rule the privileges accorded to the ntms con- 
sisted merely in their being allowed to receive visits in 
the presence of a lay-sister, and to perform in concerts 
on the feast-days of the order; but some few convents 
had a name for far greater license, and it was a common 
thing for the noble libertine returned from Italy to boast 
of his intrigue with a Venetian mm. 

Odo, in the Procuratessa's train, had of course visited 
many of the principal convents. Whether it were owing 
to the malicious pleasure of contrasting their own state 
with that of their cloistered sisters, or to the discreet 
shelter which the parlor afforded to their private in- 
trigues, the Venetian ladies were exceedingly partial to 
these visits. The Procuratessa was no exception to the 
rule, and as was natural to one of her complexion, she 
preferred the convents where the greatest fi-eedom pre- 
vailed. Odo, however, had hitherto found little to tempt 
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THE CHOICE 

him in these glimpses of forbidden fruit. The nuns, 
though often young and pretty, had the insipidity of 
women secluded from the passions and sorrows of life 
without being raised above them; and he preferred the 
frank coarseness of the Procuratessa'^s circle to the sim- 
pering graces of the cloister. 

Even Coeur- Volant's mysterious boast of a conquest 
he had made among the sisters failed to excite his 
friend's curiosity. The Marquess, though still devoted 
to Miranda, was too much the child of his race not to 
seek variety in his emotions; indeed he often declared 
that the one fault of the Italian character was its im- 
imaginative fidelity in love-affairs. 

"Does a man," he asked, "dine off one dish at a 
gourmefs banquet? And why should I restrict myself to 
one course at the most richly-spread table in Europe? 
One must love at least two women to appreciate either; 
and, did the silly creatures but know it, a rival becomes 
them like a patch." 

Sister Mary of the Crucifix, he went on to explain, 
possessed the very qualities that Miranda lacked. The 
daughter of a rich nobleman of Treviso, she was skilled 
in music, drawing and all the operations of the needle, 
and was early promised in marriage to a young man 
whose estates adjoined her father's. The jealousy of a 
younger sister, who was secretly in love with the suitor, 
caused her to accuse Coeur- Volant's mistress of miscon- 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

duct and thus broke off the marriage; and the unhappy 
girl, repudiated by her bridegroom, was at once de- 
spatched to a convent in Venice. Enraged at her fate, 
she had repeatedly appealed to the authorities to re- 
lease her; but her father^s wealth and influence pre- 
vailed against all her efforts. The Abbess, however, felt 
such pity for her that she was allowed more freedom 
than the other nims, with whom her wit and beauty 
made her a favorite in spite of her exceptional privi- 
leges. These, as Coeur- Volant hinted, included the lib- 
erty of leaving the convent after nightfall to visit her 
friends; and he professed to be one of those whom she 
had thus honored. Always eager to have his good taste 
ratified by the envy of his friends, he was urgent with 
Odo to make the lady^s acquaintance; and it was agreed 
that, on the first favorable occasion, a meeting should 
take place at Coeur- Volanfs casino. 

The weeks elapsed, however, without Odo'^s hearing 
farther of the matter, and it had nearly passed from his 
mind when one August day he received word that the 
Marquess hoped for his company that evening. He was 
in that mood of careless acquiescence when any novelty 
invites, and the heavy warmth of the summer night 
seemed the accomplice of his humor. Cloaked and 
masked, he stepped into his gondola and was swept 
rapidly along the Grand Canal and through winding 
channels to the Giudecca. It was close on midnight and 
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THE CHOICE 

all Venice was abroad. Grondolas laden with musicians 
and hung with colored paper lamps lay beneath the 
palace windows or drifted out on the oily reaches of 
the lagoon. There was no moon, and the side-canals 
were dark and noiseless but for the hundreds of caged 
nightingales that made every byway musical. As his 
prow slipped past garden walls and under the blackness 
of low-arched bridges Odo felt the fathomless mystery of 
the Venetian night: not the open night of the lagoons, 
but the secret dusk of nameless water-ways between 
blind windows and complaisant gates. 

At one of these his gondola presently touched. The 
gate was cautiously unbarred and Odo foimd himself in 
a strip of garden preceding a low pavilion in which not 
a light was visible. A woman-serveuit led him indoors 
and the Marquess greeted him on the threshold. 

**You are late!*" he exclaimed. "I began to fear you 
would not be here to receive our guests with me." 

"Your guests?*" Odo repeated. "I had feuicied there 
was but one.'^ 

The Marquess smiled. "My dear Mary of the Cruci- 
fix,'" he said, "is too well-bom to venture out alone at 
this late hour, and has prevailed on her bosom friend 
to accompany her. — Besides," he added with his depre- 
cating shrug, "I own I have had too recent an ex- 
perience of your success to trust you alone with my 
enchantress; and she has promised to bring the most 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

fisiscinating nun in the convent to protect her from your 
wiles.'' 

As he spoke he led Odo into a room furnished in the 
luxurious style of a French boudoir. A Savonnerie car- 
pet covered the floor, the loimges and easy-chairs were 
heaped with cushions, and the panels himg with pastel 
drawings of a lively or sentimental character. The win- 
dows toward the garden were close-shuttered, but those 
on the farther side of the room stood open on a starUt 
terrace whence the eye looked out over the lagoon to 
the outer line of islands. 

"Confess," cried Coeur- Volant, pointing to a table set 
with delicacies and flanked by silver wine-coolers, "that 
I have spared no pains to do my goddess honor and 
that this interior must present an agreeable contrast to 
the whitewashed cells and dismal refectory of her con- 
vent! No passion," he continued, with his quaint didac- 
tic air, "is so susceptible as love to the influence of its 
surroimdings; and principles which might have held out 
against a horse-hair sofa and sofwpe a Vokgtum have be- 
fore now been known to succumb to silk cushions and 
champagne." 

He received with perfect good-humor the retort that 
if he failed in his designs his cook and his upholsterer 
would not be to blame; and the yoimg men were still 
engaged in such banter when the servant returned to 
say that a gondola was at the water-gate. The Mar- 
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THE CHOICE 

quess hastened out and presently reappeared with two 
masked and hooded figures. The first of these, whom he 
led by the hand, entered with the air of one not imac- 
customed to her surroundings; but the other hung back, 
and on the Marquesses inviting them to immask, hur- 
riedly signed to her firiend to refuse. 

"Very well, fair strangers,*** said Coeur- Volant with a 
laugh; "if you insist on prolonging our suspense we 
shall avenge ourselves by prolonging yours, and neither 
my friend nor I will unmask till you are pleased to set 
us the example.*" 

The first lady echoed his laugh. "Shall I own,** she 
cried, "that I suspect in this unflattering compliance a 
pretext to conceal your friend's features from me as long 
as possible? For my part,** she continued, throwing back 
her hood, "the mask of hypocrisy I am compelled to 
wear in the convent makes me hate every form of dis- 
guise, and with all my defects I prefer to be known as I 
am.*" And with that she detached her mask and dropped 
the cloak fit)m her shoulders. 

The gestiu^ revealed a beauty of the laughing sensu- 
ous type best suited to such surroundings. Sister Mary 
of the Crucifix, in her sumptuous gown of shot-silk, 
with pearls wound through her reddish hair and hang- 
ing on her bare shoulders, might have stepped frt)m 
some festal canvas of Bonifazio's. She had laid aside 
even the light gauze veil worn by the mms in gala 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

habit, and no vestige of her calling showed itself in 
dress or bearing. 

"Do you accept my challenge, cavaliere?'' she ex- 
claimed, turning on Odo a glance confident of victory. 

The Marquess meanwhile had approached the other 
nun with the intention of inducing her to unmask; but 
as Sister Maiy of the Crucifix adveuiced to perform the 
same service for his friend, his irrepressible jealousy 
made him step hastily between them. 

"Come, cavaliere,^ he cried, Odo gaily drawing to- 
ward the imknown nun, "since you have induced one of 
our fair guests to unmask perhaps you may be equally 
successful with the other, who appears provokingly in- 
different to my advances." 

The masked nun had in fact retreated to a comer of 
the room and stood there, drawing her cloak about her, 
rather in the attitude of a frightened child than in that 
of a lady bent on a gallant adventure. 

Sister Mary of the Crucifix approached her playftilly. 
"My dear Sister Veronica,'' said she, throwing her arm 
about the other's neck, "hesitates to reveal charms which 
she knows must cast mine in the shade; but I am not 
to be outdone in generosity, and if the Marquess will 
unmask his friend I will do the same by mine." 

As she spoke she deftly pinioned the nun's hands and 
snatched off her mask with a malicious laugh. The Mar- 
quess, entering into her humor, removed Odo's at the 
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THE CHOICE 

same instant, and the latter, turning with a laugh, found 
himself face to face with Fulvia Vivaldi. He grew white, 
and Maiy of the Crucifix sprang forward to support her 
friend. 

"Good God! What is this?^ gasped the Marquess, 
staring from one to the other. 

A glfiuice of entreaty from Fulvia checked the answer 
on Odo'^s lips, and for a moment there was silence in the 
room; then Fulvia, breaking away from her companion, 
fled out on the terrace. Sister Mary was about to follow; 
liiit'0«6i'^^ntl^inp4iiftfi^f,I^I^^^ iHsmJ^^^ 
•^^^'*ifaM^,^^id^^Hfe q«^rffo*^^^ft*si^ff>^i^ogfli^3itt 

^tto^Wiri^y6ff^p«ufa6a^^¥sii^k ^ 

sists^^Mdif afe#^*«i^ii MM^imiAi^^is^i^^M^ 

^8Qife#rte8itbi6fl«^^^*^%^4ie'f>¥fettl^% iim^^iagb- 
nable; but what a sly creature, t6^%4'^hWe^lS6 ^^t*^ 
tiiin(K%lW[sTi^!ft*^ksfeg6ifetef*»J2 ^don led tosi iA 

^ '^dfel^iiitefe sm^eii^f^m^Jim^M^^^^^m&. 

It was so dark after the brightly-lit roomf%iiklb«ft*^% 
moment he did not distin^iS^^flSg Iff^uf^^lii^lLad 

i^l^WH^e 'wk f&^^'^vi^l^m^^mt^^ §^' he 

stumbled forward just in time^tP»afcfrT^a^telc^ 

"This is madness!'' he cried, m'^ %li§ Titlb^'^^^^MA 
tremblimr. .bo'iDv/^nB osk ''^ooriig xlinoai A** 



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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

^^The boat,^^ she stammered in a strange sobbing 
voice — **the boat should be somewhere below — " 

**The boat lies at the water-gate on the other side,'' 
he fiuiswered. 

She drew away from him with a gesture of despair. 
The struggle with Sister Mary had disordered her hair 
and it fell on her white neck in loosened strands. ^^My 
cloak — my mask — '^ she faltered vaguely, clasping her 
hands across her bosom; then suddenly dropped to a 
seat and burst into tears. Once before — but in how 
different a case! — he had seen her thus bowed with 
weeping. Then fate had thrown him humbled at her 
feet, now it was die who cried him mercy in every line 
of her bent head and shaken breast; and the thought 
of that other meeting thrilled his heart with pity. 

He knelt before her, seeking her hands. "Fulvia, why 
do you shrink from me.'^'*' he whispered. But she shook 
her head and wept on. 

At last her sobs subsided and she rose to her feet. "I 
must go back,'' she said in a low tone, and would have 
passed him. 

"Back? To the convent?" 

^To the convent," she said after him; but she made 
no farther effort to move. 

The question that tortured him sprang forth. "You 
have taken the vows?" 

"A month since," she answered. 
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He hid his face in his hands and for a moment both 
were silent. "And you have no other word for me — 
none?*" he faltered at last. 

She fixed him with a hard bright stare. "Yes — one,"" 
she cried; "keep a place for me among your gallant 
recollections.*** 

"Fulvia!^ he said with sudden strength, and caught 
her by the arm. 

**Let me pass!** she cried. 

"No, by heaven!" he retorted; "not till you listen 
to me — till you tell me how it is I come upon you 
here! Ah, child,'' he broke out, "do you fancy I don't 
see how little you belong in such scenes.'^ That I don't 
know you are here through some dreadful error? Ful- 
via," he pleaded, "will you never trust me?" And at 
the word he bvuned with blushes in the darkness. 

His voice, perhaps, rather than what he said, seemed 
to have struck a yielding fibre. He felt her arm 
tremble in his hold; but after a moment she said with 
cruel distinctness: "There was no error. I came know- 
ingly. It was the company and not the place I was 
deceived in." 

Odo drew back with a start; then, as if in spite of 
himself, he broke into a laugh. "By the saints," said 
he, almost joyously, "I am sorry to be where I am not 
wanted; but, since no better company offers, will you 
not make the best of mine and suffer me to band you 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

in to supper with our friends?" And with a low bow he 
offered her his arm. 

The effect was instantaneous. He saw her catch at 
the balustrade for support. 

**Sancta simplicitasr he exulted, "and did you think 
to play the part at such short notice?'' He fell at her 
feet and covered her hands with kisses. "My Fulvia! 
My poor child ! Come with me, come away from h^re," 
he entreated. "I know not what mad hazard has brought 
us thus together, but I thank God on my knees for the 
encounter. You shall tell me all or nothing, as you 
please — you shall presently dismiss me at your con- 
vent-gate, and never see me again if you so will it — 
but till then, I swear, you are in my charge, and no 
humem power shall come between us!'' 

As he ended, the Marquess's voice called gaily through 
the open window: "Friends, the burgundy is uncorked! 
Will you not join us in a glass of good French wine?" 

Instantly Fulvia flung herself upon Odo. "Yes — yes; 
away — take me away from here!" she cried clinging to 
him. She had gathered her cloak about her and drawn 
the hood over her disordered hair. "Away! Away!" she 
repeated. "I cannot see them again. Grood God, is there 
no other way out?" 

With a gesture he warned her to be silent and drew 
her along the terrace in the shadow of the house. The 
gravel creaked beneath their feet, and she shook at the 
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THE CHOICE 

least sound; but her hand lay in his like a child'^s and 
he felt himself her master. 

At the farther end of the terrace a flight of steps led 
to a narrow strip of shore. He helped her down and 
after listening a moment gave a whistle. Presently they 
heard the low plash of oars and saw the prow of a gon- 
dola cautiously rounding the angle of the terrace. The 
water was shallow and the boatmen proceeded slowly 
and at length paused a few yards from the land. 

"We can come no nearer,'' one of them caUed; "what 
is it.?" 

"Your mistress is unwell and wishes to return,*" Odo 
answered; and catching Fulvia in his arms he waded 
out with her to the gondola and lifted her over the 
side. "To Santa Chiara!'' he ordered, as he laid her on 
the cushions beneath ihejelze; and the boatmen, recog- 
nizing her as one of their late fares, without more ado 
began to row rapidly toward the dty. 

IV 

IN the pitying darkness of the gondola she lay be- 
yond speech, her hand in his, her breath coming fit- 
fully. Odo waited in suspense, not daring to question 
her, yet sure that if she did not speak then she would 
never do so. All doubt and perplexity of spirit had 
vanished in the simple sense of her nearness. The throb 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

of her hand in his was like the heart-beat of hope. 
He felt himself no longer a drifting spectator of life 
but a sharer in its gifts and renunciations. Which this 
meeting would bring he dared not yet surmise: it was 
enough that he was with Fulvia and that love had 
freed his spirit. 

At length she began to speak. Her agitation was so 
great that he had difficulty in piecing together the frag- 
ments of her story; but for the moment he was more 
concerned in regaining her confidence than in seeking 
to obtain a clear picture of the past. Before she could 
end, the gondola rounded the comer of the narrow 
canal skirting the garden- wall of Santa Chiara. Alarmed 
lest he should lose her again he passionately urged her 
to receive him on the morrow; and after some hesita- 
tion she consented. A moment later their prow touched 
the postern and the boatmeui gave a low call which 
proved him no novice at the business. Fulvia signed to 
Odo not to speak or move; and they sat listening in- 
tently for the opening of the gate. As soon as it was 
unbarred she sprang ashore and vanished in the dark- 
ness of the garden ; and with a cold sense of failure Odo 
heard the bolt slipping back and the stealthy fall of the 
oars as the gondola slid away under the shadow of the 
convent-waU. Whither was he being carried and would 
that bolt ever be drawn for him again .'^ In the sultry 
dawn the convent loomed forbiddingly as a prison, and 
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he could hardly believe that a few hours earlier the very 
doors now closed against him had stood open to all the 
world. They would open again; but whether to him, 
who could conjecture? He was resolved to see Fulvia 
again, but he shrank from the thought of forcing him- 
self upon her. She had promised to receive him; but 
what revulsion of feeling might not the morrow bring? 
Unable to sleep, he bade the boatmen carry him to 
the Lido. The sun was just rising above the Friulian 
Alps and the lagoon lay dull and smooth as a breathed- 
on mirror. As he paced the lonely sands he tried to re- 
construct Fulvia's broken story, supplementing it with 
such details as his experience of Venetian life suggested. 
It appeared that after her father^s death she had found 
herself possessed of a small sum of money which he had 
painfully accumulated for her during the two years they 
had spent in Pavia. Her only thought was to employ 
this inheritance in publishing the great work on the 
origin of civilization which Vivaldi had completed a few 
days before his last seizure. Through one of the pro- 
fessors of the University, who had been her father^s 
friend, she negotiated with a printer of Amsterdam for 
the production of the book, and the terms being agreed 
on, despatched the money and the manuscript thither 
by a sure hand. Both were duly delivered and the pub- 
lisher had advanced so far in his work as to send Fulvia 
the proof-sheets of the first chapters, when he took 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

alarm at the renewed activity of the Holy OfBoe in 
France and Italy, declared there would be no market 
for the book in the present state of affairs, and refused 
either to continue printing it, or to restore the money, 
which he said had barely covered the setting-up of the 
type. Fulvia then attempted to recover the manuscript; 
but the publisher refusing to surrender it, she found 
herself doubly beggared at a stroke. 

In this extremity she tinned to a sister of her fa- 
ther% who lived near Treviso; and this excellent wo- 
man, though persuaded that her brother^s heretical 
views had doomed him to everlasting torment, did not 
scruple to offer his child a home. Here Fulvia hid lived 
for two years when her aunt's sudden death left her 
destitute; for the good lady, to atone for having given 
shelter to a niece of doubtful orthodoxy, had left the 
whole of her small property to the Church. 

Fulvia's only other relations were certain distant 
cousins of her mother's, members of the Venetian no- 
bility, but of the indigent class called Bamabotti, who 
lived on the bounty of the state. While in Treviso she 
had made the acquaintance of one of these cousins, a 
stirring noisy fellow involved in all the political agita- 
tions of the state. It was among the Bamabotti, the 
class most indebted to the government, that these se- 
ditious movements generally arose; and Fulvia's cousin 
was one of the most notorious malcontents of his order. 
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She had mistaken his revolutionaiy bluster for philo- 
sophic enlightenment; and, persuaded that he shared in 
her views, she rashly appealed to him for help. With 
the most eloquent expressions of sympathy he offered 
her a home under his own roof; but on reaching Venice 
she was but ill-received by his wife and family, who 
made no scruple of declaring that, being but pensioners 
themselves, they were in no state to nourish their pau- 
per relatives. Fulvia could not but own that they were 
right; for they lived in the garret of a half-ruined 
house, pawning their very beds to pay for ices in the 
Piazza, and sitting at home all the week in dirty shifts 
and nightcaps that they might go to mass in silk and 
powder on a Sunday. 

After two months of wretchedness with these un- 
friendly hosts, whom she vainly tried to conciliate by 
a hundred little services and attentions, the poor girl 
resolved to return to Milan, where she hoped to obtain 
some menial position in the household of one of her 
father^s friends. Her cousins, at this, made a great out- 
cry, protesting that none of their blood should so de- 
mean herself, and that they would spare no efforts to 
find some better way of providing for her. Their noble 
connections gave Fulvia the hope that they might ob- 
tain a small pension for her, ancL she unsuspiciously 
yielded to their wishes; but to her dismay she learned^ 
a few weeks later, that, thanks to their exertions, she 
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was to be admitted as a novice to the convent of Santa 
Chiara. Though it was the common way of disposing 
of portionless girls, the liberal views of her cousins had 
reassinred Fulvia, and she woke to her fate too late to 
escape it. She was to enter on her novitiate on the 
morrow; but even had delay been possible she knew 
that both the civil and religious authorities would 
uphold her family in their course. 

Her cousins, knowing her independent spirit, and 
perhaps fearing an outcry if they sequestered her too 
closely, had thought to soften her resistance by placing 
her in a convent noted for its leniencies; but to Fulvia 
such surroundings were more repugnant than the strict- 
est monastic discipline. The corruption of the religious 
orders was a favorite topic with her father^s friends, 
and the Venetian nuns were noted throughout Italy for 
their frivolous and dissipated lives; but nothing that 
Fulvia had heard or imagined approached the realities 
that awaited her. At first the mere sense of imprison- 
ment, of being cut off forever from the world of free 
thought and action which had been her native element, 
overwhelmed every other feeling, and she lay numb in 
the clutch of fate. But she was too young for this mer- 
ciful torpor to last, and with the retiuning conscious- 
ness of her situation came the instinctive effort to 
amend it. How she longed then to have been buried 
in some strict order, where she might have spent her 
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THE CHOICE 

days in solitary work and meditation! How she loathed 
the petty gossip of the nuns, their furtive reaching 
after forbidden pleasures! The blindest bigotry would 
have been less insufferable than this clandestine com- 
merce with the world, the strictest sequestration than 
this open parody of the monastic calling. She sought in 
vain among her companions for an answering mind. 
Many, like herself, were in open rebellion against their 
lot; but for reasons so different that the feeling was an 
added estrangement. At last the longing to escape over- 
mastered every other sensation. It became a fixed idea, 
a devoviring passion. She did not trust herself to think 
of what must follow, but centred every faculty on the 
effort of evasion. 

At this point in her story her growing distress had 
made it hard for Odo to gather more than a general 
hint of her meaning. It was clear, however, that she 
had found her sole hope of escape lay in gaining the 
friendship of one of the more favored nuns. Her own 
position in the community was of the humblest, for she 
had neither rank nor wealth to commend her; but her 
skill on the harpsichord had attracted the notice of the 
music-mistress and she had been enrolled in the con- 
vent orchestra before her novitiate was over. This had 
brought her into contact with a few of the more favored 
sisters, and among them she had recognized in Sister 
Mary of the Crucifix the daughter of the nobleman who 
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had been her aunt^s landlord at Treviso. Fulvia^s name 
was not unknown to the handsome nun, and the coin- 
cidence was enough to draw them together in a com- 
munity where such trivial affinities must replace the 
ties of natiure. Fulvia soon learned that Mary of the 
Crucifix was the spoiled darling of the convent. Her 
beauty and spirit, as much perhaps as her family con- 
nections, had given her this predominance; and no 
scruples interfered with her use of it. Finding herself, 
as she declared, on the wrong side of the grate, she de- 
termined to gather in all the pleasures she could reach 
through it; and her reach was certainly prodigious. 
Here Odo had been obliged to fall back on his knowl- 
edge of Venetian customs to conjectiure the incidents 
leading up to the scene of the previous night. He di- 
vined that Fulvia, maddened by having had to pro- 
noimce the irrevocable vows, had resolved to fly at all 
hazards; that Sister Mary, unconscious of her designs, 
had proposed to take her on a party of pleasure, and 
that the rash girl, blind to every risk but that of delay, 
had seized on this desperate means of escape. What 
must have followed had she not chanced on Odo, she 
had clearly neither the courage nor the experience to 
pictiure; but she seemed to have had some confused idea 
of throwing herself on the mercy of the foreign noble- 
man she believed she was to meet. 

So much Odo had gathered; and her voice, her ges- 
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ture, the disorder of her spirit, supplied what her words 
omitted. Not for a moment, either in listening to her 
or in the soberer period of revision, did he question the 
exact truth of her narrative. It was the second time that 
they had met under strange circumstances; yet now as 
before the sense of her candor was his ruling thought. 
He concluded that, whatever plight she found herself 
in, she would be its immediate justification; and felt 
sure he must have reached this conclusion though love 
had not had a stake in the verdict. This perhaps but 
proved him the more deeply taken; for At is when pas- 
sion tightens the net that reason flaps her wings most 
loudly. 

Day was high when he returned to his lodgings, impa- 
tient for a word from Fulvia. None had come; and as the 
hours passed he yielded to the most disheartening fan- 
cies. His wretchedness was increased by the thought that 
he had once inflicted on her such suspense he was now 
enduring; and he went so far as to wonder if this were 
her revenge for Vercelli. But if the past was intolerable 
to consider the future was all baffling fears. His imme- 
diate study was how to see her; and this her continued 
silence seemed to refuse him. The extremity of her 
plight was his best ally; yet here again anxiety sug- 
gested that his having been the witness of her humilia- 
tion must insensibly turn her against him. Never per- 
haps does a man show less knowledge of human nature 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

than in speculating on the conduct of his beloved; and 
every step in the labyrinth of his conjectures carried 
Odo farther from the truth. This rose on him at night- 
fall, in the shape of a letter slipped in his hand by a 
lay-sister as he crossed the square before his lodgings. 
He stepped to the light of the nearest shrine and read 
the few words in a tumult. "This being Friday, no visi- 
tors are admitted to the convent; but I entreat you to 
come to me to-morrow an hour before benediction." A 
postscript added: ^^It is the hour when visitors are most 
frequent.*" 

He saw her meaning in a flash: his best chance of 
speaking with her was in a crowd, and his heart bounded 
at the significance of her admission. Now indeed he felt 
himself lord of the future. Nothing counted but that 
he was to see her. His horizon was narrowed to the bars 
through which her hand would greet him; yet never 
had the world appeared so vast. 

Long before the hour appointed he was at the gate 
of Santa Chiara. He asked to speak with Sister Veronica 
and the portress led him to the parlor. Several nuns 
were already behind the grate, chatting with a group of 
fashionable ladies and their gallants; but Fulvia was not 
among them. In a few moments the portress returned 
and informed Odo that Sister Veronica was indisposed 
and unable to leave her cell. His heart sank, and he 
asked if she had sent no message. The portress answered 
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in the negative, but added that the Abbess begged him 
to come to her parlor; and at this his hopes took wing 
again. 

The Abbesses parlor was preceded by a handsome ante* 
chamber, where Odo was bidden to wait. It was doubt- 
less the Reverend Mother's hour for receiving company, 
for through the door beyond he heard laughter and 
music and the sound of lively talk. Presently this door 
opened and Mary of the Crucifix entered. In her monas- 
tic habit she looked coarse and overblown: the severe 
lines and sober tints of the dress did not become her. 
Odo felt an insurmountable repugnance at seeing her. 
He could not conceive why Fulvia had chosen such an 
intermediary, and for the first time a stealing doubt 
tainted his thoughts of her. 

Sister Mary seemed to read his mind. ^^ You bear me 
a grudge,'' said she gaily; "but I think you will live to 
own that I do not return it. Come with me if you wish 
to speak with Sister Veronica." 

Odo flushed with surprise. "She is not too unwell to 
receive me?" 

Sister Mary raised her eyebrows in astonishment. ^^To 
receive her cousin.'^ Her nearest male relative, come from 
Treviso purposely to visit her? The saints forbid!" she 
cried. "The poor child is indeed dying — but only to 
see her cousin!" And with that she seized his hand and 
hurried him down the corridor to a door on which she 
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THE VALLEY OP DECISION 

tapped three times. It opened at once, and catching 
Odo by the shoulder she pushed him laughingly over 
the threshold and cried out as she vanished: ^^Be care- 
ful not to agitate the sufferer I'' 

Odo found himself in a neat plain cell; but he had no 
eyes for his surroundings. All that he saw was Fulvia, 
dressed in her nim'^s habit and seated near the window, 
through which the afternoon light fell softly on her 
white coif and the austere folds of her dress. She rose 
and greeted him with a smile. 

•*You are not ill, then?'' he cried, stupidly, and the 
color rose to her pale face. 

*^No,'' she said, ^^I am not ill, and at first I was re- 
luctant to make use of such a subterfuge; but to feign 
an indisposition was the only way of speaking with you 
privately, and, alas, in this school one soon becomes a 
proficient in deceit.*" She paused a moment and then 
added ¥dth an effort: "Even this favor I could not have 
obtained save through Sister Mary of the Crucifix; but 
she now imderstands that you are an old friend of my 
father's, and that my motive for wishing to see you is 
not what she at first supposed." 

This was said with such noble simplicity ahd so direct 
a glance, that Odo, confused by the sense of his own 
doubts, could only murmur as he bent over her hand: 
^^Fuoco di quesf incendio non v* assaleJ" 

She drew back gently and signed him to a seat. ^'I 
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trust not,'' she said, answering his citation; "but I think 
the flame through which Beatrice walked must have 
been less contaminating than this morass in which I 
flounder." 

She was silent a moment and he had leisure to steal 
a closer look at her. It was the first time since their 
meeting that he had really seen her face; and he was 
struck by the touch of awe that had come upon her 
beauty. Perhaps her recent suffering had spiritualized a 
countenance already pure and lofty; for as he looked at 
her it seemed to him that she was transformed into a 
being beyond earthly contact, and his heart sank with 
the sense of her remoteness. Presently she began to 
speak and his consciousness of the distance between 
them was increased by the composure of her manner. 
All signs of confusion and distress had vanished. She 
faced him with the same innocent freedom as under 
her father's roof, and all that had since passed between 
them seemed to have slipped from her without a trace. 

She began by thanking him for coming, and then at 
once reverted to her desperate situation and to her 
determination to escape. 

"I am alone and friendless," she said, ^and though 
the length of our pcust acquaintance" (and here indeed 
she blushed) ^^ scarce warrants such a presumption, yet 
I believe that in my father'^s name I may appeal to you. 
It may be that with the best will to help me you can 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

discover no way of doing so, but at least I shall have 
the benefit of your advice. I now see,^ she added, again 
deeply blushing, but keeping her eyes on his, "the mad- 
ness of my late attempt, and the depth of the abyss 
from which you rescued me. Death were indeed prefer- 
able to such chances; but I do not mean to die while 
life holds out a hope of liberation.'" 

As she spoke there flashed on Odo the reason of her 
remoteness and composure. He had come to her as a 
lover: she received him as a friend. His longing to aid 
her was inspired by passion: she saw in it only the 
natural impulse of benevolence. So mortifying was the 
discovery that he hardly followed her words. All his 
thoughts were engaged in reviewing the past; and he 
now saw that if, as she said, their acquaintance scarce 
warranted her appealing to him as a friend, it still less 
justified his addressing her as a lover. Only once before 
had he spoken to her of love, and that under circum- 
stances which almost forbade a return to the subject, or 
at least compelled an added prudence in approaching it. 
Once again he found himself the prisoner of his folly, 
and stood aghast at the ingenuity of the punishment. 
To play the part she ascribed to him was his only por- 
tion; and he resolved at least to play it like a man. 

With what composure he might he assured Fulvia 
of his desire to serve her, and asked if she had no hope 
of obtaining her release from the Holy See. She an- 
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THE CHOICE 

swered: None, since enquiry must reveal that she was 
the daughter of a man who had been prosecuted for 
heresy, and that after his death she had devoted the 
small sum he had left her to the publication of his writ- 
ings. She added that his Holiness, resolved to counteract 
the effects of the late Pope'^s leniency, had greatly en- 
larged the powers of the Inquisition, and had taken 
special measures to prevent those who entered the reli- 
gious life from renouncing their calling. 

"Since I have been here,'' she said, "three nuns have 
tried to obtain their release, and one has conclusively 
proved that she was forced to take the vows by fraud; 
but their pleas have been rejected, and mine would meet 
the same fate. Indeed, the only result would be to de- 
prive me of what little liberty I am allowed; for the 
three nuns I speak of are now the most closely watched 
in the convent.'" 

She went on to explain that, thanks to the conni- 
vance of Sister Mary of the Crucifix, her actual escape 
might be effected without much difficulty; but that she 
was now awake to the madness of taking so desperate a 
step without knowing whither it would lead her. 

"To be safe,'' she said, "I must cross the borders of 
Switzerland. If I could reach Geneva I should be be- 
yond the arm of the Holy Office, and at the University 
there I should find friends of my father's who would 
surely take pity on my situation and help me to a liv- 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

ing. But the journey is long and difficult, and not to be 
safely attempted without some assiu*anoe of shelter on 
the way.*" 

It was on Odo^s lips to declare that he would provide 
her with shelter and escort; but at this moment tlnfee 
warning taps announced the return of Sister Mary of 
the Crucifix. 

She entered merrily and at once laid one hand on 
Fulvia^s brow and caught her wrist in the other. "The 
patient^s pulse has risen,^ she declared, ^^and rest and a 
lowering treatment are essential. I must ask the cava- 
liere to withdraw.*" 

Fulvia, with an air of constraint, held out her hand 
toOdo. 

"I shall see you soon again ?^ he whispered; and 
Sister Mary, as though she had guessed his words, cried 
out, "I think your excellency may count on a recurrence 
of the seizure two days hence at the same hour !^ 



WTH this Odo was forced to be content; and 
he passed the intervening time in devising 
the means of Fulvia's rescue. He was resolved to let 
no rashness or negligence hinder the attempt, and to 
prove, by the discretion of his course, that he was no 
longer the light fool who had once hazarded her safety. 
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He went about his preparations as one that had no 
private stake in the venture; but he was therefore the 
more punctilious to show himself worthy of her trust 
and sensible of the charge it laid upon him. 

At their next meeting he foiind her in the same open 
and friendly mood, and she listened gratefully as he set 
forth his plan. This was that she should first write to 
a doctor of the University in Geneva, who had been 
her father^s friend, stating her plight and asking if he 
could help her to a living should she contrive to reach 
Geneva. Fending the reply, Odo was to plan the stages 
of the journey in such fashion that she might count on 
concealment in case of pursuit; and she was not to at- 
tempt her escape till these details were decided. Fulvia 
was the more ready to acquiesce in this postponement 
as she did not wish to involve Sister Mary in her ad- 
venture, but hoped to escape unassisted during an en- 
tertainment which was to take place in the convent 
on the feast of Saint Michael, some six weeks later. 

To Odo the delay was still more welcome; for it gave 
him what he must needs regard as his last opportunity 
of being in the girPs company. She had accepted his 
companionship on the journey with a readiness in which 
he saw only the magnanimity of pardon; but in Geneva 
they must part, and what hope had he of seeing her 
again? The first smart of vanity allayed, he was glad 
she chose to treat him as a friend. It was in this char* 
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acter that he could best prove his dismterestedness, 
his resolve to make amends for the past; and in this 
character only — as he now felt — would it be possible 
for him to part from her. 

On his second visit he ventured to discharge his mind 
of its heaviest biuden by enquiring what had befallen 
her and her father after he had lost trace of them at 
Vercelli. She told him quite simply that, failing to 
meet him at the appointed place, they at once guessed 
that his plan had been winded by the abate who trav- 
elled with him; and that after a few hours^ delay her 
father had succeeded in securing a chaise which had 
taken them safely across the border. She went on to 
speak of the hardships they had suffered after reaching 
Milan. Even under a comparatively liberal government 
it was small advantage to be marked by the Holy 
Office; and though he received much kindness, and 
even material aid, from those of his way of thinking, 
Vivaldi was unable to obtain the professorship he had 
hoped for. 

From Milan they went to Pavia; but in this Uni- 
versity, the most liberal in Italy, the chairs were so 
sought after that there was no hope of his receiving a 
charge worthy of his talents. Here, however, his spirit 
breathed its natural air, and reluctant to lose the privi- 
leges of such intercourse he decided to accept the post 
of librarian to an eccentric nobleman of the town. If 
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THE CHOICE 

his pay was modest his duties left him leisure for the 
work which was his chief concern; for his patron, who 
had houses in Milan and Brescia, came seldom to Favia, 
and Fulvia and her father had the vast palace to them- 
selves. They lodged in a comer adjoining the library, 
spending their days in studious seclusion, their even- 
ings in conversation with some of the first scholars 
of Europe: the learned botanist Scopoli, Spallanzani, 
Volta, and Father Fontana, the famous mathematician. 
In such surroundings Vivaldi might have pursued his 
task contentedly enough, but for the thought of Fulvia'*s 
future. This, his daughter said, continually preyed on 
him, driving him to labors beyond his strength; for he 
hoped by the publication of his book to make good, 
at least in part, the loss of the small property which 
the Sardinian government had confiscated. All her en- 
treaties could not dissuade him from over-exertion; 
and in addition to his regular duties he took on him- 
self (as she afterward learned) the tedious work of re- 
vising proofs and copying manuscripts for the profes- 
sors. This drudgery, combined with severe intellectual 
eiFort, exceeded his flagging powers; and the book was 
hardly completed when his patron, apprised of its con- 
tents, abruptly removed him from his post. From that 
day Vivaldi sank in health; but he ended as became 
a sage, content to have discharged the task for which 
he had given up home and substance, and dying with 
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the great Stoic^s words upon his lips: — Lex non poena 
mors. 

Vivaldi's friends in Milan came generously to Fulvia's 
aid, and she would gladly have remained among them; 
but after the loss of her small inheritance and of her 
father's manuscript she was without means of repaying 
their kindness, and nothing remained but to turn to 
her own kin. 

As Odo sat in the quiet cell, listening to her story, 
and hearing again the great names his youth had rever- 
enced, he felt himself an exile returning to his own, 
remounting the familiar heights and breathing the air 
that was his birthright. Looking back from this recov- 
ered standpoint he saw how far behind his early hopes 
had been left. Since his departure from Naples there had 
been nothing to remind him of that vast noiseless labor 
of the spirit going on everywhere beneath the social sur- 
face: that baffled but undiscouraged endeavor in which 
he had once so impatiently claimed his share. Now 
every word of Fulvia's smote the bones of some dead 
purpose, till his bosom seemed a very valley of Ezekiel. 
Her own trials had fanned her love of freedom, and the 
near hope of release lent an exaltation to her words. 
Of bitterness, of resentment she gave no sign; and he 
was awed by the same serenity of spirit which had 
struck him in the imprisoned doctor. But perhaps the 
strongest impression she produced was that of increasr 
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ing his points of contact with life. His other senti- 
mental ties had been a barrier between himself and the 
outer world; but the feeling which drew him to Fulvia 
had the effect of levelling the bounds of egoism, of let- 
ting into the circle of his nearest emotions that great 
tide of human longing and effort that had always faintly 
sounded on the shores of self. Perhaps it was her power 
of evoking this wider life that gave a sense of perma- 
nence, of seciuity almost, to the stolen moments of their 
intercourse, lulling the lover'^s impatience of actual con- 
ditions with the sense of something that must survive 
the accidents of fortune. Only in some such way could 
he explain, in looking back, the completeness of each 
moment spent with her. He was conscious even at the 
time of a suspension of the emotional laws, a charmed 
surrender to the limitations of his fate. When he was 
away his impatience reasserted itself; but her presence 
was like a soothing hand on his spirit, and he knew 
that his quiet hours with her would count among those 
intervals between the crises of life that flower in mem- 
ory when the crises themselves have faded. 

It was natural that in the course of these visits she 
in turn should question him; and as his pcust rearranged 
itself beneath her scrutiny he seemed once more to trace 
the thread of purpose on which its fragments hung. He 
told her of his connection with the liberals of Pianura, 
of the situation at court, and of the reason for his pro- 
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longed travels. As he talked her eyes conveyed the ex- 
quisite sense of her complete comprehension. She saw, 
before he could justify himself, how the imcertainty of 
his future, and his inability to act, had cast him adrift 
upon a life of superficial enjoyment; and how his latent 
dissatisfaction with this life had inevitably resulted in 
self-distrust and vacillation. "You wait your hour,^ she 
said of him; and he seized on the phrase as a justifica- 
tion of his inactivity and, when chance should ofier, a 
spur to fresh endeavor. Her interest in the liberal cause 
had been intensified and exalted by her father'^s death 
— his martyrdom, as she described it. Like most women 
possessed of an abstract idea she had unconsciously 
personified the idea and made a religion of it; but it 
was a religion of charity and not of vindictiveness. "I 
should like my father'^s death avenged by love and not 
by hate,^ she said; "I would have it bring peace, not 
a sword.'* 

On one point only she remained, if not hostile, yet 
unresponsive. This was when he spoke of de Crucis. 
Her manner hardened instantly, and he perceived that, 
though he dwelt on the Jesuit's tolerant view and culti- 
vated tastes, she beheld only the priest and not the 
man. She had been eager to hear of Crescenti, whom 
she knew by name as a student of European repute, 
and to the praise of whose parochial charities she 
listened with outspoken sympathy; but the Jesuits 
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stood for the Holy Office, and she had suffered too 
deeply at the hands of the Holy Office to regard with 
an open mind any who might be supposed to represent 
its principles. It was impossible for Odo to make her 
understand how distinctly, in de Crucis^s case, the man 
predominated over the order; and conscious of the 
painfiilness of the subject, he gave up the attempt to 
interest her in his friend. 

Three or foiur times he was permitted to visit her in 
her cell: after that they met almost daily in the parlor, 
where, about the hoiur of benediction, they could talk 
almost as privately under cover of the general chatter. 
In due time Fulvia received an answer from the Calvin- 
ist professor, who assiured her of a welcome in Geneva 
and shelter under his roof. Odo, meanwhile, had per- 
fected the plan of their journey; but as Michaelmas 
approached he began to fear Cantapresto^s observation. 
He now bitterly regretted that he had not held to his 
purpose of sending the soprano back to Pianiura; but to 
do so at this point would be to challenge observation, 
and he resolved instead on despatching him to Monte 
Alloro with a letter to the old Duke. As the way to 
Greneva lay in the opposite direction this would at least 
give the fugitives a three days' lead; and they had little 
cause to fear pursuit from any other quarter. The con- 
vent indeed might raise a hue and ciy; but the nuns of 
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cause for scandal that the Abbess would probably be 
disposed to hush up any fresh delinquency. The time 
too was well-chosen; for the sisters had prevailed on 
the Reverend Mother to celebrate the saint^s day by 
a masked ball, and the whole convent was engrossed 
in the invention of whimsical disguises. The nuns in- 
deed were not to take part in the ball; but a number 
of them were to appear in an allegorical entertainment 
with which the evening was to open. The new Papal 
Nuncio, who was lately arrived in Venice, had promised 
to be present; and as he was known to be a man of 
pleasure there was scarce a sister in the convent but 
had an eye to his conquest. These circumstances gave 
to Fulvia^s plans the shelter of indifference; for in the 
delightful effort of surpassing the other nuns even Mary 
of the Crucifix lost interest in her friend's affairs. 

Odo, to preserve the secrecy of his designs, had been 
obliged to keep up a pretence of his former habits, 
showing himself abroad with Coeur-Volant and Castel- 
rovinato and frequenting the Procuratessa's routs and 
card-parties. This lady, though lately returned to the 
Brenta, had announced her intention of coming to 
Venice for the ball at Santa Chiara; and Coeur-Volant 
was mightily preoccupied with the entertainment, at 
which he purposed his mistress should outshine all her 
companions. 

The evening came at last, and Odo found himself 
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entering the gates of Santa Chiara with a throng of 
merry-makers. The convent was noted for its splendid 
hospitality, and unwonted preparations had been made 
to honor the saint. The brightly-illuminated bridge 
leading to the square of Santa Chiara was decked with 
a colonnade of pasteboard and stiffened linen cunningly 
painted, and a classical portico masked the entrance 
gate. A flourish of trumpets and hautboys, and the 
firing of miniature cannon greeted the arrival of the 
guests, who were escorted to the parlor, which was hung 
with tapestries and glowing with lights like a Lady 
Chapel. Here they were received by the Abbess, who, 
on the arrival of the Nuncio, led the way to the garden, 
where a stage had been erected. 

The nuns who were not to take part in the play 
had been seated directly under the stage, divided from 
the rest of the company by a low screen of foliage. 
Ranged beneath the footlights, which shone on their 
bare shoulders and white gowns, and on the gauze veils 
replacing their monastic coifs, they seemed a choir of 
pagan virgins grouped in the proscenium of an €uitique 
theatre. Everything indeed combined to produce the 
impression of some classic festival: the setting of mo- 
tionless foliage, the mild autumnal sky in which the 
stars hung near and vivid, and the foreground thronged 
with a motley company lit by the shifting brightness of 
torches. 

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As Odo, in mask and travesty, stood observing the 
fantastically-dressed audience, the pasteboard theatre 
adorned with statuary, and the nuns flitting across the 
stage, his imagination, strung to the highest pitch by 
his own impending venture, was thrilled by the contrast 
between the outward appearance of the scene and its 
underlying reality. From where he stood he looked di- 
rectly at the Abbess, who was seated with the Nuncio 
and his suite under the tall crucifix in the centre of the 
garden. As if to emphasize the irony of the situation, 
the torch fixed behind this noble group cast an enlarged 
shadow of the cross over the Abbess's white gown and 
the splendid robes of her companions, who, though they 
wore the mask, had not laid aside their clerical dress. 
To Odo the juxtaposition had the effect of some super- 
natural warning, the shadow of the divine wrath pro- 
jected on its heedless ministers; an impression height- 
ened by the fact that, just opposite the cross, a lively 
figure of Pfiui, surmounting the pediment of the theatre, 
seemed to fling defiance at the Galilean intruder. 

The nuns, like the rest of the company, were masked; 
and it had been agreed between Odo and Fulvia that 
the latter should wear a wreath of myrtle above her 
veil. As almost all her companions had chosen brightly- 
colored flowers this dark green chaplet was easily dis- 
tinguished among the clustered heads beneath the stage, 
and Odo had no doubt of being able to rejoin Fulvia 
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in the moment of dispersal that should follow the con- 
clusion of the play. He knew that the sisters were to 
precede their guests and be locked behind the grate 
before the ball began; but as they passed through the 
garden and cloisters the barrier between nims and visit- 
ors would probably not be too strictly maintained. As 
he had foreseen, the company, attracted by the graceful 
procession, pressed forward regardless of the assistant 
mistresses^ protests, and the shadowy arcades were fiill 
of laughter and whispered snatches of talk as the white 
flock was driven back to its fold. 

Odo had withdrawn to the darkest angle of the clois- 
ter, close to a door leading to the pharmacy. It was 
here that Fulvia had told him to wait; and though he 
had lost sight of her when the audience rose, he stood 
confidently watching for the reappearance of the myrtle- 
wreath. Presently he saw it close at hand; and just then 
the line of sisters flowed toward him, driven forward by 
a group of lively masqueraders, among whom he seemed 
to recognize Coeur-Volant^s voice and figure. Nothing 
could have been more opportune, for the pressure swept 
the wearer of the myrtle-wreath almost into his arms; 
and as the intruders were dispersed and the nuns laugh- 
ingly reformed their lines, her hand lingered in his and 
he felt himself drawn toward the door. 

It yielded to her touch and Odo followed her down 
a dark passage-way to the empty room where rows of 
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old Faenza jars and quaintly-shaped flagons glimmered 
in the dusk. Beyond the pharmacy was another door, 
the key of which hung on the wall with the portress'^s 
hood and cloak. Without a word the girl wrapped her- 
self in the cloak and, fitting the key to the lock, softly 
opened the door. All this was done with a rapidity and 
assurance for which Odo was unprepared; but, reflect- 
ing that Fulvia'^s whole future hung on the promptness 
with which each detail of her plan was executed, he con- 
cluded that her natural force of character had enabled 
her to assume an ease she could hardly feel. 

The door opened on the kitchen-garden, and brush- 
ing the lavender-hedges with her flying sku-ts she sped 
on ahead of Odo to the postern which the nuns were 
accustomed to use for their nocturnal escapades. Only 
the thickness of an oaken gate stood between Fulvia 
and the outer world. To her the opening of the gate 
meant the first step toward freedom, but to Odo the 
passing from their enchanted weeks of fellowship to the 
inner loneliness of his former life. He hung back silent 
while she drew the bolt. 

A moment later they had crossed the threshold and 
his gondola was slipping toward them out of the shadow 
of the wall. Fulvia spremg on board and he followed her 
under the felze. The warm darkness enclosing them 
stirred impulses which their daily intercourse had sub- 
dued, and in the sense of her nearness he lost sight of 
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the conditions which had brought them together. The 
feeling seemed to communicate itself; for as the gondola 
rounded the angle of the convent-wall and swung out 
on the open, she drooped toward him with the turn 
of the boat and their lips met under the loosened 
masks. 

At the same instant the light of the Virgin's shrine 
in the comer of the convent-wall fell through the win- 
dow of the Jilze on the face lifted to Odo's; and he 
found himself suddenly confronted by the tender eyes 
and malicious smile of Sister Mary of the Crucifix. 

"By Diana,'' she cried as he started back, "I did 
but claim my pay in advance; nor do I think that, 
when she knows all. Sister Veronica will grudge me my 
reward !" 

He continued to stare at her in speechless bewilder- 
ment, and she went on with a kind of tender impa- 
tience: "You simpleton, can you not guess that you 
were watched, and that but for me your Veronica would 
at this moment be lying under lock and key in her cell? 
Instead of which," she continued, speaking more slowly, 
and leaning back as though to enjoy the fiill savor of 
his suspense, "instead of which she now awaits you in a 
safe nook of my choosing, where, within half an hour's 
time, you may atone to her with interest for the trifling 
infidelity into which I have betrayed you." 

**She knows, then.?" Odo faltered, not daring to say 
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more in his ignorance of Sister Mary'^s share in the 
secret 

Sister Maiy shook her head with a tantalizing laugh. 
^^That you are coming? Alas, no, poor angel! She fan- 
cies that she has been sent from the convent to avoid 
you — as indeed she was, and by the Reverend Mother^s 
own order, who, it seems, had wind of the intrigue this 
morning. But, the saints be praised, the excellent sister 
who was ordered to attend her is in my pay, and in- 
stead of conducting her to her relatives of San Bamab6, 
who were to keep her locked up over night, has, if I 
mistake not, taken her to a good womcm of my ac- 
quaintance — an old servant, in fact — who will guard 
her as jealously as the family plate till you and I come 
to her release.'' 

As she spoke she put out her head and gave a whis- 
pered order to the gondolier; and at the word the boat 
swung round and headed for the city. 

In the violent reaction which this strange encounter 
produced, Odo was for the moment incapable of taking 
any clear note of his surroundings. Uncertain if he were 
not once more the victim of some such mischance as 
seemed to attend all his efforts to succor Fulvia, he sat 
in silent apprehension as the gondola shot across the 
Grand Canal and entered the labyrinth of water-ways 
behind San Moise. Sister Mary took his silence philo- 
sophically. 

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"You dare not speak to me, for fear of betraying 
yourself,^ she said, "and I scarce wonder at your dis- 
trust; for your plans were so well laid that I had no 
notion of what was on foot, and must have remained 
in ignorance if Veronica had not been put in Sister 
Martha's charge. But you will both live to thank me, 
and I hope,^ she added, laughing, "to own that you 
would have done better to take me into your confidence 
from the first.*** 

As she spoke the gondola touched at the head of a 
narrow passage which lost itself in the blackness of the 
overhanging houses. Sister Mary sprang out and drew 
Odo after her. A few yards down the alley she entered 
a plain low-storied house somewhat withdrawn behind 
its neighbors. Followed by Odo she groped her way up 
a dark flight of stairs and knocked at a door on the 
upper landing. A vague flutter within, indicative of 
whispers and uncertain movements, was followed by the 
slipping of the bolt, and a middle-aged woman looked 
out. She drew back with an exclamation of welcome, 
and Sister Mary, seizing Odo by the shoulders, pushed 
him across the threshold of a small dimly-lit kitchen. 

Fulvia, in her nun's habit, cowered in the darkest 
comer; but at sight of Odo she sprang up, and ran 
toward him with a happy cry. 



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VI 

AN hour later the two were well on their way toward 
jLjL Mestre, where a travelling-chaise awaited them. 
Odo, having learned that Andreoni was settled in Padua, 
had asked him to receive Fulvia in his house till the 
next nightfall; and the bookseller, whom he had taken 
into his confidence, was eager to welcome the daughter 
of the revered Vivaldi. 

The extremes of hope and apprehension had left 
Fulvia too exhausted for many words, and Odo, after 
she had confirmed every particular of Sister Mary'^s 
story, refrained from questioning her farther. Thanks 
to her friend'^s resources she had been able to exchange 
her nim'*s dress for the plain gown and travelling-cloak 
of a young woman of the middle class; and this dress 
painfully recalled to Odo the day when he had found 
her standing beside the broken-down chaise on the 
road to Vercelli. 

The recollection was not calculated to put him at 
his ease; and indeed it was only now that he began to 
feel the peculiar constraint of his position. To Andreoni 
his explanation of Fulvia^s flight had seemed natiu*al 
enough; but on the subsequent stages of their journey 
she must pass for his mistress or his wife, and he haidly 
knew in what spirit she would take the misapprehen* 
sions that must inevitably arise. 
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At Mestre their carriage waited, and they drove rap- 
idly toward Padua through the waning night. Andreoni, 
in his concern for Fulvia^s safety, had prepared for her 
reception a little farm-house of his wife\ in a vineyard 
beyond the town; and here at daybreak it was almost 
a relief to Odo to commit his charge to the Signora 
Andreoni's care. 

The day was spent indoors, and Andreoni having 
thought it more prudent to bring no servant from 
Padua, his wife prepared the meals for their guests and 
the bookseller drew a jar of his own wine from the 
cellar. Fulvia kept to herself during the day; but at 
dusk she surprised Odo by entering the room with a 
trayful of plates and glasses, €uid helping their hostess 
to set out the supper-table. The few hours of rest had 
restored to her not only the serenity of the convent, but 
a lightness of step and glance that Odo had not seen 
in her since the early days of their friendship. He mar- 
velled to see how the first breath of freedom had set 
her blood in motion and fanned her languid eye; but 
he could not suppress the accompanying thought that 
his own presence had failed to work such miracles. 

They had planned to ride that night to a little vil- 
lage in the hills beyond Vicenza, where Fulvia's foster- 
mother, a peasant of the Vicentine, lived with her son, 
who was a vine-dresser; and supper was hardly over 
when they were told that their horses waited. Their 
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kind hosts dared not urge them to linger; and after a 
hurried farewell they rode forth into the fresh darkness 
of the September night. 

The new moon was down and they had to thread 
their way slowly through the stony lanes between the 
vineyards. At length they gained the open country, and 
growing more accustomed to the darkness put their 
horses to a trot. The change of pace, and the exhilara- 
tion of traversing an unknown country in the hush and 
mystery of night, combined to free their spirits, and 
Odo began to be aware that the barrier between them 
was lifted. To the charm of their intercourse at Santa 
Chiara was added that closer sympathy produced by 
the sense of isolation. They were enclosed in their com- 
mon risk as in some secret meeting-place where no 
consciousness of the outer world intruded; and though 
their talk kept the safe level of their immediate con- 
cerns he felt the change in every inflection of Fulvia^s 
voice and in the subtler emphasis of her silences. 

The way was long, and he had feared that she would 
be taxed beyond her strength; but the miles seemed to 
fly beneath their horses^ feet, and they could scarcely 
believe that the dark hills which rose ahead of them 
against a whitening sky marked the limit of their 
journey* 

With some difliculty they found their way to the 
vine-dresser^s house, a mere hut in a remote fold of the 
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hills. From motives of prudence they had not warned 
the nurse of their coming; but they found the old 
woman already at work in her melon-patch and learned 
from her that her son had gone down to his day^s labor 
in the valley. She received Fulvia with a tender wonder, 
as at some supernatural presence descending into her 
life, too much awed, till the first embraces were over, to 
risk any conjecture as to Odo^s presence. But with the 
returning sense of familiarity — the fancied recovery of 
the nursling^s features in the girPs definite outline — 
came the inevitable reaction of curiosity, and the fugi- 
tives felt themselves coupled in the old woman'^s meaning 
smiles. To Odo's surprise Fulvia received these innuen- 
does with baffling composure, parrying the questions 
she seemed to answer, and finally taking refuge in a 
plea for rest. But the accord of the previous night was 
broken; and when the travellers set out again, start- 
ing a little before sunset to avoid the vine-dresser^s re- 
turn, the constraint of the day began to weigh upon 
them. In Fulvia^s case physical weariness perhaps had a 
share in the change; but whatever the cause, its efiect 
was to make this stage of the journey strangely tedious 
to both. 

Their way lay through the country north of Vicenza, 

whence they hoped by dawn to gain Peschiera on the 

lake of Garda, and hire a chaise which should take them 

across the border. For the first hour or two they had 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

the new moon to light them; but as it set the sky 
clouded and drops of rain began to fSsdl. Fulvia had 
hitherto shown a gay indifference to the discomforts of 
the journey; but she presently began to complain of the 
cold and to question Odo anxiously as to the length of 
the way. The hilliness of the country forced them to 
travel slowly, and it seemed to Odo that hours had 
elapsed before they saw lights in the valley below them. 
Their plan had been to avoid the towns on their way, 
and Fulvia, the night before, had contented herself with 
a half-hour's rest by the roadside; but a heavy rain was 
now falling, and she at once assented to Odo's tentative 
proposal that they should take shelter till the storm 
was over. 

They dismounted at an inn on the outskirts of the 
village. The sleepy landlord stared as he unbarred the 
door and led them into the kitchen; but he offered no 
comment beyond remarking that it was a good night 
to be under cover. 

Fulvia sank down on the wooden settle near the 
chimney, where a fire had been hastily kindled. She 
took no notice of Odo when he removed the dripping 
cloak from her shoulders, but sat gazing before her in a 
kind of apathy. 

^^I cannot eat,^ she said, as Odo pressed her to take 
her place at the table. 

The innkeeper turned to him with a confidential 

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nod. ** Your lady looks fairly beaten,^ he said. "I Ve a 
notion that one of my good beds would be more to her 
taste than the best supper in the land. Shall I have a 
room made ready for your excellencies.'^'' 

"No, no,** said Fulvia, starting up. "We must set 
out again as soon as we have supped.'' 

She approached the table and hastily emptied the 
glass of country wine that Odo had poured out for her. 

The innkeeper seemed a simple unsuspicious fellow, 
but at this he put down the plate of cheese he was car- 
rying and looked at her curiously. 

"Start out again at this hour of the night?" he ex- 
claimed. "By the saints, your excellencies must be run- 
ning a race with the sun! Or do you doubt my being 
able to provide you with decent lodgings, that you pre- 
fer mud and rain to my good sheets and pillows?" 

*^Indeed, no," Odo amicably interposed; "but we are 
hurrying to meet a friend who is to rejoin us to-morrow 
at Peschiera." 

^Ah — at Peschiera," said the other, as though the 
name had struck him. He took a dish of eggs from the 
fire and set it before Fulvia. "Well," he went on with 
a shrug, ^4t is written that none of my beds shall be 
slept in to-night. Not two hours since I had a gentle- 
man here that gave the very same excuse for hurry- 
ing forward; though his horses were so spent that I 
had to provide him with another pair before he could 

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continue his journey .'^^ He laughed and uncorked a sec- 
ond bottle. 

^^That reminds me,^ he went on, pausing suddenly 
before Fulvia, "that the other gentleman was travelling 
to meet a firiend too; a lady, he said — a young lady. 
He fancied she might have passed this way and ques- 
tioned me closely; but as it happened there had been 
no petticoat under my roof for three days, — I wonder, 
now, if he could have been looking for your excel- 
lencies?'' 

Fulvia flushed high at this, but a sign from Odo 
checked the denial on her lips. 

"Why,'' said he, "it is not unlikely, though I had 
fancied our friend would come from another direction. 
What was this gentleman like?" 

The landlord hesitated, evidently not so much from 
any reluctance to impart what he knew as from the in- 
ability to express it. "Well," said he, trying to sup- 
plement his words by a vaguely descriptive gesture, 
"he was a handsome personable-looking man — smallish 
built, but with a fine manner, and dressed not unlike 
your excellency." 

"Ah," said Odo carelessly, "our friend is an ecclesi- 
astic. — And which way did this gentleman travel?" he 
went on, pouring himself another glass. 

The landlord assumed an air of country cimning. 
"There 's the fishy part of it," said he. "He gave orders 
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to go toward Verona; but my boy, who chased the car- 
riage down the road, as lads will, says that at the cross- 
ways below the old mill the driver took the turn for 
Peschiera,^ 

Fulvia at this seemed no longer able to control her- 
self. She came close to Odo and said in a low urgent 
tone: '^For heaven'^s sake, let us set forward!" 

Odo again signed to her to keep silent, and with an 
effort she resumed her seat and made a pretence of eat- 
ing. A moment later he despatched the landlord to the 
stable, to see that the horses had been rubbed down; and 
as soon as the door closed she broke out passionately. 

"It is my fault," she cried, "it is all my fault for 
coming here. If I had had the courage to keep on this 
would never have happened !" 

"No," said Odo quietly, "and we should have gone 
straight to Peschiera and landed in the arms of our pur- 
suer — if this mysterious traveller is in pursuit of us." 

His tone seemed to steady her. "Oh," she said, and 
the color flickered out of her face. 

"As it happens," he went on, "nothing could have 
been more fortunate than our coming here." 

"I see — I see — ; but now we must go on at once," 
she persisted. 

He looked at her gravely. "This is your wish?" 

She seemed seized with a panic fear. "I cannot stay 
here!" she repeated. 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

"Which way shall we go, then? If we continue to 
Peschiera, and this man is after us, we are lost.*^ 

"But if he does not find us he may return here — he 
will singly return here!*" 

"He cannot return before morning. It is close on 
midnight already. Meanwhile you can take a few hours^ 
rest, while I devise means of reaching the lake by some 
mule-track across the mountain.*" 

It cost him an effort to take this tone with her; but 
he saw that in her high-strung mood any other would 
have been less effective. She rose slowly, keeping her 
eyes on him with the look of a frightened child. "I will 
do as you wish,^ she said. 

"Let the landlord prepare a bed for you, then. I will 
keep watch down here and the horses shall be saddled 
at daylight." 

She stood silent while he went to the door to call the 
innkeeper; but when the order was given, and the door 
closed again, she disconcerted him by a sudden sob. 

"What a burden I am!" she cried. "I had no right 
to accept this of you." And she turned and fled up the 
dark stairs. 



The night passed and toward dawn the rain ceased. 
Odo rose from his dreary vigil in the kitchen, and called 
to the innkeeper to carry up bread and wine to Fulvia'*8 
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room. Then he went out to see that the horses were fed 
and watered. He had not dared to question the landlord 
as to the roads, lest his enquiries should excite suspi- 
cion; but he hoped to find an ostler who would give 
him the information he needed. 

The stable was empty, however; and he prepared to 
bait the horses himself. As he stooped to place his 
lantern on the floor he caught the gleam of a small 
polished object at his feet. He picked it up and found 
that it was a silver coat-of-arms, such as are attached 
to the blinders and saddles of a carriage-harness. His 
ciuiosity was aroused, and holding the light closer he 
recognized the ducal crown of Pianura surmounting the 
HumilUas of the Valseccas. 

The discovery was so startling that for some moments 
he stood gazing at the small object in his hand without 
being able to steady his confused ideas. Gradually they 
took shape, and he saw tliat, if the ornament had fallen 
from the harness of the traveller who had just preceded 
them, it was not Fulvia but he himself who was being 
pursued. But who was it who sought him and to what 
purpose? One fact alone was clear: the traveller, who- 
ever he was, rode in one of the Duke's carriages, and 
therefore presumably upon his sovereign's business. 

Odo was still trying to thread a way through these 
conjectures when a yawning ostler pushed open the 
stable-door. 

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**Your excellency is in a huny to be gone,'' he said, 
with a surprised glance. 

Odo handed him the coat-of-arms. ^^Can you tell me 
what this is?'' he asked carelessly. ^^I picked it up here 
a moment ago." 

The other turned it over and stared. '^Why," said 
he, ^that's off the harness of the gentleman that 
supped here last night — the same that went on later 
to Peschiera." 

Odo proceeded to question him about the mule-tracks 
over Monte Baldo, and having bidden him saddle the 
horses in half an hour, crossed the courtyard and re- 
entered the inn. A grey light was already falling through 
the windows, and he mounted the stairs and knocked 
on the door which he thought must be Fulvia's. Her 
voice bade him enter and he found her seated fiilly 
dressed beside the window. She rose with a smile and 
he saw that she had regained her usual self-possession. 

"Do we set out at once?" she asked. 

"There is no great haste," he answered. "You must 
eat first, and by that time the horses will be saddled." 

"As you please," she returned, with a readiness in 
which he divined the wish to make amends for her 
wilfulness of the previous night. Her eyes and cheeks 
glowed with an excitement which counterfeited the 
effects of a night's rest, and he thought he had never 
seen her more radiant. She approached the table on 
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which the wine and bread had been placed, and drew 
another chair beside her own. 

**Will you not share with me?" she asked, filling a 
glass for him. 

He took it fix)m her with a smile. "I have good 
news for you,*" he said, holding out the bit of silver 
which he had brought from the stable. 

She examined it wonderingly. ^^What does this 
mean?" she asked, looking up at him. 

"That it is I who am being followed — and not you." 

She started and the ornament slipped from her hand. 

"You?" she faltered with a quick change of color. 

**This coat-of-arms," he expledned, "dropped frx)m 
the harness of the traveller who left the inn just before 
our arrival last night." 

"Well — " she said, still without understanding; 
"and do you know the coat?" 

Odo smiled. "It is mine," he answered; "and the 
crown is my cousin^s. The traveller must have been a 
messenger of the Duke's." 

She stood leaning against the seat frx)m which she 
had risen, one hand still grasping it while the other 
hung inert. Her lips parted but she did not speak. Her 
pallor disconcerted Odo and he went up to her and 
took her hand. 

"Do you not understand," he said gently, "that there 
is no farther cause for alarm? I have no reason to think 
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that the Duke^s messenger is in pursuit of me; but 
should he be so, and should he overtake us, he has no 
authority over you and no reason for betraying you to 
your enemies." 

The blood poured back to her face. "Me! My ene- 
mies!" she stammered. "It is not of them I think." She 
raised her head and faced him in a glow. 

For a moment he stood stupidly gazing at her; then 
the mist lifted and through it he saw a great light. • • 

The landlord's knock warned them that their horses 
waited, and they rode out in the grey morning. The 
world about them still lay in shade, and as they climbed 
the wooded defile above the valley Odo was reminded 
of the days at Donnaz when he had ridden up the 
mountain in the same early light. Never since then had 
he felt, as he did now, the boy'^s easy kinship with the 
unexpected, the sense that no encounter could be too 
wonderful to fit in with the mere wonder of living. 

To avoid the road to Peschiera they had resolved to 

cross the Monte Baldo by a mule-track which should 

bring them out at one of the villages on the eastern 

« 
shore of Garda; and the search for this path led them 

up through steep rain-scented woods where they had to 

part the wet boughs as they passed. From time to time 

they regained the highway and rode abreast, almost 

silent at first with the weight of their new nearness, 

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and then breaking into talk that was the mere overflow 
of what they were thinking. There was in truth more 
to be felt between them than to be said; since, as each 
was aware, the new light that sufiiised the present left 
the future as obscure as before. But what mattered, 
when the hour was theirs.'^ The narrow kingdom of to- 
day is better worth ruling over than the widest past 
or future; but not more than once does a man hold its 
fugitive sceptre. The past, however, was theirs also: a 
past so transformed that he must revisit it with her, 
joyously confronting her new self with the image of 
her that met them at each turn. Then he had himself 
to trace in her memories, his transfigured likeness to 
linger over in the Narcissus-mirror of her faith in him. 
This interchange of recollections served them as well as 
any outspoken expression of feeling, and the most com- 
monplace allusion was charged with happy meanings. 

Arabia Petraea had been an Eden to such travel- 
lers; how much more the happy slopes they were now 
descending! All the afternoon their path wound down 
the western incline of Monte Baldo, first under huge 
olives, then through thickets of laiu*el and acacia, to 
emerge on a lower level of lemon and orange groves, 
with the blue lake showing through a diaper of golden- 
fruited boughs. Fulvia, to whom this clear-cut southern 
foliage was as new as the pure intensity of light that 
bathed it, seemed to herself to be moving through the 
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landscape of a dream. It was as though nature had been 
remodelled, transformed almost, mider the touch of 
their love: as though they had found their way to the 
Hesperian glades in which poets and painters placed 
the legendary lovers of antiquity. 

Such feelings were intensified by the strangeness of 
the situation. In Italy the young girls of the middle 
class, though seemingly allowed a greater freedom of 
intercourse than the daughters of noblemen, were in 
reality as strictly guarded. Though, like Fulvia, they 
might converse with the elderly merchants or scholars 
frequenting the family table, they were never alone in 
the company of men, and the high standard of conduct 
prevailing in the bourgeoisie forbade all thought of 
clandestine intercourse. This was especially true of the 
fiimilies of men of letters, where the liberal education 
of the young girls, and their habit of associating as 
equals with men of serious and cultivated minds, gave 
them a self-possession disconcerting to the young blood 
accustomed to conquer with a glance. These girls, as a 
rule, were married early to men of their own standing, 
and though the cicisbeo was not unknown after mar- 
riage, he was not an authorized member of the house- 
hold. Fulvia, indeed, belonged to the class most inac- 
cessible to men of Odo's rank; the only class in Italy in 
which the wife's fidelity was as much esteemed as the 
innocence of the girl. Such principles had long been 
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ridiculed by persons of quality and satirized by poets 
and playwrights. From Aristophanes to Beaumarchais 
the cheated husband and the outwitted guardian had 
been the figures on which the dramatist relied for his 
comic effects. Even the miser tricked out of his savings 
was a shade less ridiculous, less grotesquely deserving 
of his fate, than the husband defrauded of his wife^s 
affection. The plausible adulteress and the adroit se- 
ducer had a recognized claim on the sympathy of the 
public. But the inevitable reaction was at hand; and 
the new teachers to whom Odo^s contemporaries were 
beginning to listen had thrown a strangely poetic light 
over the dull figures of the domestic virtues. Faithful- 
ness to the family sanctities, reverence for the marriage 
tie, courage to sacrifice the loftiest passion to the most 
plodding duty: these were qualities to touch the fancy 
of a generation sated with derision. K love as a senti- 
ment was the discovery of the mediaeval poets, love as 
a moral emotion might be called that of the eighteenth- 
century philosophers, who, for all their celebration of 
free unions and fatal passions, were really on the side 
of the angels, were fighting the battle of the spiritual 
against the sensual, of conscience against appetite. 

The imperceptible action of these new influences 
formed the real barrier between Odo and Fulvia. The 
girl stood for the embodiment of the purifying emo- 
tions that were to renew the world. Her candor, her 
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unapproachableness, her simple trust in him, were a 
part of the magic light which the new idealism had 
shed over the old social structure. His was, in short, 
a love large enough to include other emotions: a 
widening rather than a contraction of the emotional 
range. Youth and propinquity have before now broken 
down stronger defences; but Fulvia^s situation was an 
unspoken appeal to her lover's forbearance. The sense 
that her scifety depended on him kept his sentimental 
impulses in check, and made the happiness of the mo- 
ment seem, in its exquisite unreality, a mere dreamlike 
interlude between the facts of life. 

Toward sunset they rested in an olive-orchard, teth- 
ering their horses to the low boughs. Overhead, through 
the thin foliage of tarnished silver, the sky, as the 
moon suffused it, melted from steel blue to a clearer 
silver. A peasant-woman whose hut stood close by 
brought them a goat's cheese on a vine-leaf and a jug 
of spring-water; and as they supped, a little goat-herd, 
driving his flock down the hill, paused to watch them 
with furtive woodland eyes. 

Odo, questioning him, learned that at the village on 
the shore below they could obtain a boat to carry them 
across the lake. Fulvia, for lack of a passport, dared 
not set foot on Austrian soil; but the Swiss authorities 
were less exacting and Odo had hopes of crossing the 
border without difficulty. They set out again presently, 
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descending through the grey dusk of the olives till the 
path became too steep for riding; then Odo lifted Ful- 
via from the saddle and led the two horses after her. 
Here and there, between the trees, they caught a mo- 
mentary glimpse of lights on the shore and the pale 
gleam of the lake enclosed in black foliage. From the 
village below came snatches of song and the shrill wail 
of a pipe; and as the night deepened they saw, far out 
on the water, the wild flare of the fish-speaiers^ torches, 
like comets in an inverted sky. 

With nightfall the spirits of both had sunk. Fulvia 
walked abead in silence and Odo read a mute apprehen- 
sion in her drooping outline. Every step brought them 
nearer to the point they both feared to face, and 
though each knew what lay in the other^s thoughts 
neither dared break the silence. Odo^s mind turned 
anxiously to the incidents of the morning, to the find- 
ing of the ducal coat-of-arms, and to all the possibili- 
ties it suggested. What errand save one could have 
carried an envoy from Pianura to that remote hamlet 
among the hills? He could scarcely doubt that it was in 
pursuit of himself that the ducal messenger travelled; 
but with what object was the journey undertaken? Was 
he to be recalled in obedience to some new whim of the 
Duke^s? Or had some unforeseen change — he dared not 
let his thoughts define it — suddenly made his presence 
needful in Pianura? It was more probable that the pos- 



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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

sibility of his fli^t with Fulvia had been suggested to 
the Duke fay the ecclesiastical authorities, and that the 
same hand which had parted them before was again 
secretly at work. In any case, it was Odo^s first business 
to see his companion safely across the border; and in 
that endeavor he had now little fear of being thwarted. 
If the Duke^s messenger awaited them at Peschiera he 
waited in vain; and though their flight across the lake 
might be known before dawn it would then be no easy 
matter to overtake them. 

In an bourns time, as Odo had hoped, they were put- 
ting off from the shore in a blunt-nosed fishing-boat 
which was the lightest craft the village could provide. 
The lake was stark calm, and the two boatmen, sil- 
houetted against the moonlight, drove the boat for- 
ward with even vigorous strokes. Fulvia, shivering in 
the autumnal chill, had drawn her hood close about her 
and sat silent, her face in shade. Measured by their secret 
apprehensions the boat's progress seemed at first inde- 
scribably slow; but gradually the sounds from the shore 
grew fainter, and the fugitives felt themselves alone in 
a world enclosed by the moonlit circle of the waters. 

As they advanced this sense of isolation and security 
grew deeper and more impressive. The motionless sur- 
face of the lake was enclosed in a wall of mountains 
which the moonlight seemed to vein with marble. A 
sky in which the stars were dissolved in white radi- 
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THE CHOICE 

ance curved high above their heads; and not a sail 
flecked the lake or a cloud the sky. The boat seemed 
suspended alone in some ethereal medium. 

Presently one of the boatmen spoke to the other and 
glanced toward the north. Then the second silently 
shipped his oar and hoisted the sail. Hardly had he 
made it fast when a &esh of wind came down the lake 
and they began to stretch across the bay with spreading 
canvas. The wind was contrary, but Odo welcomed it, 
for he saw at once that it would be quicker work to tack 
to the other shore than to depend on the oars. The 
scene underwent a sudden change. The silver mirror 
over which they had appeared to glide was shivered 
into sparkling fragments, and in the enveloping rush 
and murmur of the night the boat woke to a creaking 
straining activity. 

The man at the rudder suddenly pointed to a hud- 
dle of lights to the south. "Peschiera."' 

Odo laughed. ^^We shall soon show it oiur heels,^ 
said he. 

The other boatman shrugged his shoulders. "Even 
an enemy'^s roof may serve to keep out the storm,^ he 
observed philosophically. 

"The storm? What storm?'' 

The man pointed to the north. Against the skyhimg 
a little black cloud, the merest flaw in the perfect curve 
of the night. 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

^The lake is shrewish at this season,^ the boatman 
continued. ^^Did your excellencies bum a candle before 
starting?'' 

Odo sat silent, his eyes fixed on the cloud. It was 
growing visibly now. With every moment its outline 
seemed to shift and spread, till its black menace dilated 
to the zenith. The bright water still broke about them 
in diamond spray; but as the shadow travelled the lake 
beneath it turned to lead. Then the storm dropped on 
them. It fell suddenly out of mid-heaven. Sky and water 
grew black and a long shudder ran through the boat. 
For a moment she himg back, staggering imder a white 
fury of blows; then the gale seemed to lift and swing 
her about, and she shot forward through a long tunnel 
of glistening blackness, bows on for Peschiera. 

"The enemy's roof!" thought Odo. He reached for 
Fulvia's hand and foimd it in the darkness. The rain 
was driving against them now and he drew her close 
and wrapped his cloak about her. She lay still, without 
a tremor, as though in that shelter no fears could reach 
her. The night roared about them and the waters 
seemed to divide beneath their keel. Through the tu- 
mult Odo shouted to the boatmen to try to make some 
harbor north of Peschiera. They shouted back that 
they must go where the wind willed and bless the 
saints if they made any harbor at all; and Odo saw 
that Peschiera was their destiny. 
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It was past midnight when they set foot on shore. 
The rain still fell in torrents and they could hardly 
grope their way up the steps of the landing-stage. 
Odo^s first concern was to avoid the inn; but the boat- 
men, exhausted by their efforts and impatient to be 
under shelter, could not be bribed to seek out another 
lodging for the travellers. Odo dared not expose Fulvia 
longer to the storm, and reluctantly they turned toward 
the inn, trusting that at that hour their coming would 
attract little notice. 

A travelling-carriage stood in the courtyard, and 
somewhat to Odo^s surprise the landlord was still afoot. 
He led them into the public parlor, which was alight, 
with a good fire on the hearth. A gentleman in travel- 
ling-dress sat near this fire, his back to the door, read- 
ing by a shaded candle. He rose as the travellers en- 
tered, and Odo recognized the abate de Crucis. 

The latter advanced with a smile in which pleasure 
was more visible than surprise. He bowed slightly to 
Fulvia, who had shrunk back into the shadow of the 
doorway; then he turned to Odo and said: ^^Cavaliere, 
I have travelled six days to overtake you. The Duke of 
Pianura is dying and has named you regent.^ 



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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

VII 

ODO heard a slight movement behind him. He 
turned and saw that Fulvia had vanished. He 
understood her wish for concealment, but its futility 
was written in the glance with which de Crucis followed 
her flight. 

The abate continued to speak in uigent tones. ^^I 
implore you," he said, "to lose no time in accompany- 
ing me to Pianura. The situation there is critical and 
before now his Highness''s death may have placed the 
reins in your hands." He glanced at his watch. "If your 
excellency is not too tired to set out at once, my horses 
can be harnessed within the half hour." 

Odo^s heart sank. To have let his thoughts dwell on 
such a possibility seemed to have done little to prepare 
him for its realization. He hardly understood what de 
Crucis was sapng: he knew only that an hour before 
he had fancied himself master of his fate and that now 
he was again in bonds. His first clear thought was that 
nothing should part him from Fulvia. 

De Crucis seemed to read the thought. 

*'C!avaliere," he said, ^'at a moment when time is so 
valuable you will pardon my directness. You are accom- 
panying to Switzerland a lady who has placed herself 
in your charge — " 

Odo made no reply, and the other went on in the 
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THE CHOICE 

same firm but courteous tone: "Foreseeing that it 
would be difficult for you to leave her so abruptly 
I provided myself, in Venice, with a safe-conduct which 
will take her safely across the border.*" He drew a paper 
from his coat. "This,^ said he, handing it to Odo, '^is the 
Papal Nuncio^s authorization to the Signorina Fulvia 
Vivaldi, known in religion as Sister Veronica, to absent 
herself from Italy for an indefinite period. With this 
passport and a good escort your companion will have 
no difficulty in rejoining her friends.*" 

Excess of astonishment kept Odo silent for a mo- 
ment; and in that moment he had as it were a fugitive 
glimpse into the workings of the great power which 
still strove for predominance in Italy. A safe-conduct 
from the Papal Nuncio to Fulvia Vivaldi was equiva- 
lent to her release from her vows; and this in turn im- 
plied that, for the moment, religious discipline had 
been fraakly sacrificed to the pressure of political ne- 
cessities. How the invisible hands made and unmade 
the destinies of those who came in their way! How 
boldly the Church swept aside her own defences when 
they obstructed her course ! He was conscious, even at 
the moment, of all that men like de Crucis had to say 
in defence of this higher expediency, this avowed dis- 
crimination between the factors in each fresh combina- 
tion of circumstances. He had himself felt the complex 
wonder of thoughtful minds before the Church's per- 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

petual miracle of change disguised in immutability; but 
now he saw only the meaner side of the game, its ele- 
ments of cruelty and falseness; and he felt himself no 
more than a frail bark on the dark and tossing seas of 
ecclesiastical intrigue. For a moment his heart shuddered 
back from its fate. 

^No passport, no safe-oonduct,^ he said at length, 
*^can release me from my duty to the lady who has 
placed herself in my care. I shall not leave her till she 
has joined her friends.^ 

De Crucis bowed. ^This is the answer I expected^^ he 
said, not without sadness. 

Odo glanced at him in surprise. The two men, 
hitherto, had addressed each other as strangers; but 
now something in the abaters tone recalled to Odo the 
familiarity of their former intercourse, their deep com- 
munity of thought, the significance of the days they 
had spent together in the monastery of Monte Cassino. 
The association of ideas brought before him the pro- 
found sense of responsibility with which, at that time, 
he had looked forward to such an hour as this. 

The abate was watching him gravely. 

'^Cavaliere,^ he said, ''every instant counts. All you 
had once hoped to do for Pianura is now yours to ac- 
complish. But in your absence your enemies are not 
idle. His Highness may revoke your appointment at any 
hour. Of late I have had his ear, but I have now been 
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THE CHOICE 

near a week absent, and you know the Duke is not long 
constant to one purpose. — Cavaliere,'' he exclaimed, "I 
appeal to you not in the name of the God whom you 
have come to doubt, but in that of your fellow-men, 
whom you have wished to serve." 

Odo looked at him, not without a confused sense of 
the irony of such an appeal on such lips, yet with the 
distinct consciousness that it was uttered in all sincerity, 
and that, whatever their superficial diversity of view, 
he and de Crucis were at one on those deeper questions 
that gave the moment its real significance. 

**It is impossible," he repeated, ^that I should go 
with you." 

De Crucis was again silent, and Odo was aware of 
the renewed intentness of his scrutiny. "If the lady — " 
broke from him once; but he checked himself and took 
a turn in the room. 

Meanwhile a resolve was slowly forming itself in 
Odo. He would not be false to the call which, since 
his boyhood, had so often made itself heard above 
the voice of pleasure and self-interest; but he would 
at least reserve the right to obey it in his own fashion 
and under conditions which left his private inclination 
free. 

"There may be more than one way of serving one's 
fellows," he said quietly. *^6o back without me, abate. 
Tell my cousin that I resign my rights to the succes- 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

sion. I shall live my own life elsewhere, not unworthily, 
I hope, but as a private person.^ 

De Crucis had turned pale. For a moment his ha- 
bitual self-command seemed about to fail him; and 
Odo could not but see that a sincere personal regret 
was mingled with the political agent^s consciousness of 
failure. 

He himself was chiefly aware of a sense of relief, of 
self-recovery, as though he had at last solved a baffling 
enigma and found himself once more at one with his 
fate. 

Suddenly he heard a step behind him. Fulvia had re- 
entered the room. She had put ofi^ her drenched cloak, 
but the hair lay in damp strands on her forehead, 
deepening her pallor and the lines of weariness under 
her eyes. She moved across the room, carrying her head 
high and advancing tranquilly to Odo's side. Even in 
that moment of confused emotions he was struck by 
the nobility of her gait and gesture. 

She turned to de Crucis, and Odo had the immediate 
intuition that she had recognized him. 

"Will you let me speak a word privately to the 
cavaliere Valsecca?^ she said. 

The other bowed silently and turned away. The door 
closed on him, and Odo and Fulvia remained alone. For 
a moment neither spoke; then she said: "That was the 
abate de Crucis?'' 

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He assented. 

She looked at him sadly. '^ You still belieye him to be' 
your friend ?"* 

**Yes,'" he answered frankly, ^I still believe him to be 
my friend, and, spite of his cloth, the friend of justice 
and humanity. But he is here simply as the Duke^s 
agent. He has been for some time the governor of 
Prince Ferrante.*" 

"I knew," she murmured, "I knew — " 

He went up to her and caught her hands. "Why do 
we waste our time upon him?'' he exclaimed impa- 
tiently. "Nothing matters but that I am free at last." 

She drew back, gently releasing herself. "Free — ?" 

'^My choice is made. I have resigned my right to the 
succession. I shall not return to Pianurcu" 

She continued to stare at him, leaning against the 
chair from which de Crucis had risen. 

"Your choice is made! Your choice is made!" she 
repeated. "And you have chosen — " 

"You," he said simply. "Will you go to France with 
me, Fulvia? Will you be my wife and work with me at 
a distance for the cause that, in Italy, we may not serve 
together? I have never abandoned the aims your father 
taught me to strive for; they are dearer, more sacred 
to me than ever; but I cannot strive for them alone. I 
must feel your hand in mine, I must know that your 
heart beats with mine, I must hear the voice of liberty 
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speak to me in your voice — ^ He broke off suddenly 
and went up to her. "All this is nothing,^ he said. "I 
love you. I cannot give you up. That is all.'' 

For a moment, as he spoke, her face shone with an 
extraordinary light. She looked at him intently, as one 
who seemed to gaze beyond and through him, at some 
mystic vision that his words evoked. Then the bright- 
ness faded. 

^The picture you draw is a beautiful one,'' she said, 
speaking slowly, in sweet deliberate tones, ^but it is 
not for me to look on. What you said last is not true. 
If you love me it is because we have thought the same 
thoughts, dreamed the same dream, heard the same 
voice — in each other's voices, perhaps, as you say, but 
none the less a real voice, apart from us and above us, 
and one which would speak to us as loudly if we were 
apart — one which both of us must follow to the end." 

He gazed at her eagerly as she spoke; and while he 
gazed there came to him, perversely enough, a vision 
of the life he was renouncing, not as it concerned 
the public welfare, but in its merely personal aspect: a 
vision of the power, the luxury, the sumptuous back- 
ground of traditional state and prerogative in which 
his artistic and intellectual tastes, as well as his easy 
impulses of benevolence, would find unchecked and im- 
mediate gratification. It was the first time that he had 
been aware of such lurking influences under his most 
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generous aspirations; but even as Fulvia ceased to speak 
the vision faded, leaving only an intenser longing to 
bend her will to his. 

"You are right,'' he rejoined; "we must follow that 
voice to the end; but why not together? Your father 
himself often questioned whether the patriot could not 
serve his people better at a distance than in their midst. 
In France, where the new ideas are not only tolerated 
but put in practice, we shall be able to study their 
effects and to learn how they may best be applied to 
the relief of our own unhappy people; and as a private 
person, independent of party and patronage, could I 
not do more than as the nominal head of a narrow 
priest-ridden government, where every act and word 
would be used by my enemies to injure me and the 
cause I represent?'' 

The vigor and rapidity of the attack, and the prompt- 
ness with which he converted her argument to his own 
use, were not without visible effect. Odo saw his words 
reflected in the wavering glow of Fulvia's cheek; but 
almost at once she regained control of her pulses and 
faced him with that serenity which seemed to come 
to her at such moments. 

"What you say might be true,'' she answered, "were 

your opportunities restricted to the regency. But the 

little prince's life is known to hang on a thread: at any 

moment you may be Duke. And you will not deny that 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

as Duke of Pianura you can serve your people better 
than as an obscure pamphleteer in Paris.'*^ 

Odo made an impatient gestiu^. ^Are you so sure?^ 
he said. "Even as Duke I must be the puppet of powers 
greater than myself — of Austria, of Rome, nay, of the 
wealthy nobles, who will always league themselves with 
their sovereign's enemies rather than suffer a hand upon 
their privileges. And even if I were fortunate enough 
to outwit my masters and rule indeed, over what a toy 
kingdom should I reign ! How small a number would be 
benefited! How little the cause would be helped by my 
example! As an obscure pamphleteer I might reach the 
hearts of thousands and speak to great kings on their 
thrones; as Duke of Pianura, fighting single-handed to 
reform the laws of my little state, I should rank at best 
with the other petty sovereigns who are amusing them- 
selves all over Italy with agricultural experiments and 
improved methods of cheese-making."" 

Again the brightness shone in Fulvia's face. "How 
you love me!^ she said as he paused; and went on, re- 
straining him with a gestiure of the gentlest dignity: 
"For it is love that speaks thus in you and not reason; 
and you know as I do that the duty to which a man is 
bom comes before any of his own choosing. You are 
called to serve liberty on a throne, I in some obsciu^ 
comer of the private life. We can no more exchange 
our duties than our stations; but if our lives divide, our 
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THE CHOICE 

purpose remains one, and as pious persons recall each 
other in the mystery of the Sacrament, so we shall meet 
in spirit in the new religion we profess.*" 

Her voice gained strength and measure as she spoke, 
and Odo felt that all that passion could urge must 
spend itself in vain against such high security of spirit. 

"Go, cavaliere,'' she continued. "I implore you to 
lose no time in reaching Pianurcu Occasion is short- 
lived, and an hour^s lingering may cost you the regency, 
and with it the chance of gaining a hold on your peo- 
ple. I will not expatiate, as some might, on the power 
and dignities that await you. You are no adventurer 
plotting to steal a throne, but a soldier pledged to his 
post."" She moved close to him and suddenly caught his 
hand and raised it to her lips. "Your excellency,'' said 
she, "has deigned to look for a moment on a poor girl 
that crossed your path. Now your eyes must be on your 
people,, who will yet have cause to love and bless you 
as she does.'' 

She shone on him with a weeping brightness that 
dissolved his very soul. 

"Ah," he cried, "you have indeed learned your les- 
son well ! I admire with what stoic calmness you pro- 
nounce my doom, with what readiness you dispose of 
my future!" 

"It is not mine to dispose of," she caught him up, 
"nor yours; but belongs, as much as any slave's to his 

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master, to the people you are called to rule. Think 
for how many generations their unheeded sufferings, 
their unrewarded toil, have paid for the pomp and 
pleasure of your house! That is the debt you are 
called on to acquit, the wrong you are pledged to set 
right." 

Odo was silent. She had found the unanswerable 
word. Yes, he was called on to acquit the accumulated 
debt of that long unrighteous rule: it was he who must 
pay, if need be with the last drop of his blood, for the 
savage victories of Bracciaforte, the rapacity of Guido- 
baldo, the magnificence of Ascanio, the religious ter- 
rors and secret vices of the poor Duke now nearing 
his end. All these passions had preyed on the people, 
on the tillers and weavers and vine-dressers, obscure 
servants of a wasteful greatness: theirs had been the 
blood that renewed the exhausted veins of their rulers, 
through generation after generation of dumb labor 
and privation. And the noblest passions, as well as the 
basest, had been nourished at the same cost. Every 
flower in the ducal gardens, every picture on the pal- 
ace walls, every honor in the ancient annals of the 
house, had been planted, paid for, fought for by the 
people. With mute inconscient irony the two powers 
had fisu^ each other for generations: the subjects never 
guessing that their sovereigns were puppets of their 
own making, tb§ Dulles that all their pomp md cir- 
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camstanoe were but a borrowed motley. Now the evil 
wrought in ignorance remained to be undone in the 
light of the world^s new knowledge: the discovery of 
that universal brotherhood which Christ had long ago 
proclaimed, and which, after so many centuries, those 
who denied Christ were the first to put in practice. 
Hour by hour, day by day, at the cost of every per- 
sonal inclination, of all that endears life and ennobles 
failure, Odo must set himself to redeem the credit of 
his house. He saw his way straight before him; but in 
that hour of insight his hearths instinct of self-preserva- 
tion made one last effort against fate. 

He turned to Fulvia. 

"You are right,'' he said; **I have no choice. You 
have shown me the way; but must I travel it alone? 
You ask me to give up at a stroke all that makes life 
desirable: to set forth, without a backward glance, on 
the very road that leads me farthest from you! Yester- 
day I might have obeyed; but how can I turn to-day 
from this near view of my happiness?'' 

He paused a moment and she seemed about to answer; 
but he hurried on without giving her time. "Fulvia, if 
you ask this sacrifice of me, is there none you will make 
in return? If you bid me go forth and work for my 
people, will you not come with me and work for them 
too?" He stretched out his hands, in a gesture that 
seemed to sum up his infinite need of her, and for a 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

moment they faced ea^ other, silenced by the nearness 
of great issues. C 

She knew well enough what Ke offered. According to 
the code of the day there was no dishonor in the offer 
and it did not occur to her to resent it. But she looked 
at him sadly and he read her refusal in the look. 

"The Regent^s mistress.?'' she said slowly. "The key 
to the treasury, the back-door to preferment, the secret 
trafficker in titles and appointments.? That is what I 
should stand for — and it is not to such services that 
you must even appear to owe your power. I will not 
say that I have my own work to do; for the dearest 
service I could perform would be to help you in yours. 
But to do this I must stand aside. To be near you I 
must go from you. To love you I must give you up.*** 

She looked him full in the eyes as she spoke; then 
she went up to him and kissed him. It was the first kiss 
she had given him since she had thrown herself in his 
arms in her father's garden; but now he felt her whole 
being on her lips. 

He would have held her fast, forgetting everything 
in the sweetness of her surrender; but she drew back 
quickly and, before he could gue9s her intention, threw 
open the door of the room to which de Crucis had 
withdrawn. 

"Signor abate!" she said. 

The Jesuit came forward. Odo was dimly aware that, 
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for an instant, the two measured each other; then Fulvia 
said quietly: 

•*His excellency goes with you to Pianura.'' 

What more she said, or what de Crucis answered, he 
could never afterward recall. He had a confused sense 
of having cried out a last unavailing protest, faintly, 
inarticulately, like a man struggling to make himself 
heard in a dream; then the room grew dark about him, 
and in its stead he saw the old chapel at Donnaz, with 
its dimly-gleaming shrine, and heard the voice of the 
chaplain, harsh and yet strangely shaken: — ^^My chief 
prayer for you is that, should you be raised to this emi- 
nence, it may be at a moment when such advancement 
seems to thrust you in the dust."" 

Odo lifted his head and saw de Crucis standing alone 
before him. 

^^I am ready,^ he said. 



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BOOK IV 

THE REWARD 

Where care the portraits of those who have perished in spite of 
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BOOK IV 
THE REWARD 

I 

ONE bright March day in the year 1783 the bells 
of Pianura began to ring at sunrise, and with 
their first peal the townsfolk were abroad. 

The city was ah'eady dressed for a festival. A canopy 
of crimson velvet, surmounted by the ducal crown and 
by the HumUitas of the Valseccas, hid the columns of 
the Cathedral porch and fell in royal folds about the 
featureless porphyry lions who had seen so many suc- 
cessive rulers ascend the steps between their outstretched 
paws. The fneze of ramping and running animals around 
the ancient baptistery was concealed by heavy green 
garlands alternating with religious banners; and every 
church and chapel had draped its doorway with crimson 
and placed above the image of its patron saint the ducal 
crown of Pianura. 

No less sumptuous was the adornment of the private 
dwellings. The great families — the Trescorri, the Bel- 
verdi, the Pievepelaghi — had outdone each other in the 
display of golden-threaded tapestries and Grenoese velvets 
emblazoned with armorial bearings; and even the sombre 
fa9ade of the Boscofolto palace showed a rich drapery 
surmoimted by the quarterings of the new Marchioness. 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

But it was not only the palaoe-fronts that had put 
on a holiday dress. The contagion had spread to the 
poorer quarters, and in many a narrow street and 
crooked lane, where surely no part of the coming 
pageant might be expected to pass, the crazy balconies 
and unglazed windows were decked out with scraps of 
finery: a yard or two of velvet filched from the state 
hangings of some noble house, a torn and discolored 
church banner, even a cast-off sacque of brocade or a 
peasant^s holiday kerchief, skilfully draped about the 
rusty iron and held in place by pots of clove-pink and 
sweet basil The half-ruined palace which had once 
housed Gamba and Momola showed a few shreds of 
color on its sullen front, and the abate Crescenti^s 
modest house, wedged in a comer of the city walls, was 
dressed like the altar of a Lady Chapel; while even the 
tanners^ quarter by the river displayed its festoons of 
colored paper and tmsel, ingeniously twisted into the 
semblance of a crown. 

For the new Duke, who was about to enter his capital 
in state, was extraordinarily popular with all classes. 
His popularity, as yet, was mainly due to a general de- 
testation of the rule he had replaced; but such a senti- 
ment gives to a new sovereign an impetus which, if he 
knows how to use it, will carry him a long way toward 
success; and among those in the Duke^s confidence it 
was rumored that he was qualified not only to profit 
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THE REWARD 

by the expectations he had raised but to fulfil them. 
The last months of the late Duke^s life had plunged the 
duchy into such political and financial disorder that all 
parties were agreed in welcoming a change. Even those 
that had most to lose by the accession of the new sov- 
ereign, or most to fear from 'the policy he was known 
to favor, preferred the possibility of new evils to a con- 
tinuance of present conditions. The expertest angler in 
troubled waters may find waters too troubled for his 
sport; and under a government where power is passed 
fixim hand to hand like the handkerchief in a children's 
game, the most adroit time-server may find himself 
grasping the empty air. 

It would indeed have been difficult to say who had 
ruled during the year preceding the Duke's death. Prime- 
ministers had succeeded each other like the clowns in a 
harlequinade. Just as the Church seemed to have gained 
the upper hand some mysterious revulsion of feeling 
would fling the Duke toward Trescorre and the liberals; 
and when these had attempted, by some trifling conces- 
sion to popular feeling, to restore the credit of the gov- 
ernment, their sovereign, seized by religious scruples, 
would hastily recall the clerical party. So the adminis- 
tration staggered on, reeling from one policy to another, 
clutching now at this support and now at that, while 
Austria and the Holy See hung on its steps, awaiting 
the inevitable fall. 

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A cruel winter and a fresh outbreak of the silk-worm 
disease had aggravated the misery of the people, while 
the mounting extravagance of the Duchess had put a 
last strain on the exhausted treasury. The consequent 
increase of the salt-tax roused such popular fury that 
Father Ignazio, who was responsible for the measure, 
was dismissed by the panic-stricken Duke, and Tres- 
corre, as usual, called in to repair his rival^s mistake. 
But it would have taken a greater statesman than 
Trescorre to reach the root of such evik; and the new 
minister succeeded neither in pacifying the people nor 
in reassuring his sovereign. 

Meanwhile the Duke was sinking under the myste- 
rious disease which had hung upon him since his birth. 
It was hinted that his last hours were darkened by hal- 
lucinations, and the pious pictured him as haunted by 
profligate visions, while the free-thinkers maintained 
that he was the dupe of priestly jugglery. Toward 
the end there was the inevitable rumor of acqua tqfanOj 
and the populace cried out that the Jesuits were at 
work again. It seems more probable, however, that his 
Highness, who had assisted at the annual festival of the 
Madonna del Monte, and had mingled on foot with 
the swarm of devotees thronging thither from all parts, 
had contracted a pestilent disorder from one of the pil- 
grims. Certain it is that death came in a dreadful form. 
The Duchess, alarmed for the health of Prince Fer- 
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THE REWARD 

rante, fled with him to the dower-house by the Piana; 
and the strange nature of his Highnesses distemper 
caused many to follow her example. Even the Duke^s 
servants, and the quacks that lived on his bounty, were 
said to have abandoned the death-chamber; and an 
English traveller passing through Pianura boasted that, 
by the pa3nnent of a small fee to the palace porter, he 
had obtained leave to enter his Highnesses closet and 
peer through the doorway at the dying man. However 
this may be, it would appear that the Duke^s confessor 
— a monk of the Bamabite order — was not to be found 
when his Highness called for him; and the servant sent 
forth in haste to fetch a priest returned, strangely 
enough, with the abate Crescenti, whose suspected or- 
thodoxy had so long made him the object of the Duke^s 
detestation. He it was who alone witnessed the end of 
that tormented life, and knew upon what hopes or fears 
it dosed. 

Meanwhile it appeared that the Duchesses precautions 
were not unfounded; for Prince Ferrante presently sick- 
ened of the same malady which had cut off his father, 
and when the Regent, travelling post-haste, arrived in 
Pianura, he had barely time to pass from the Duke^s 
obsequies to the death-bed of the heir. 

Etiquette required that a year of mourning should 
elapse between the accession of the new sovereign and 
his state entry into his capital; so that if Duke Odo^s 
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character and intentions were still matter of conjecture 
to his subjects, his appearance was ah'eady familiar to 
them. His youth, his good looks, his open mien, his 
known affability of manner, were so many arguments in 
his favor with an impressionable and impulsive people; 
and it was perhaps natural that he should interpret as 
a tribute to his principles the sympathy which his per- 
son aroused. 

It is certain that he fancied himself, at that time, as 
well-acquainted with his subjects as they believed them- 
selves to be with him; and the understanding supposed 
to exist was productive of equal satisfaction to both 
sides. The new Duke had thrown himself with extraor- 
dinary zeal into the task of loving and understanding 
his people. It had been his refuge from a hundred 
doubts and uncertainties, the one clearly-defined object 
in an obscure and troubled fate. And their response 
had, almost immediately, turned his task into a pleasure. 
It was so easy to rule if one^s subjects loved one! And 
so easy to be loved if only one loved enough in return! 
If he did not, like the Pope, describe himself to his 
people as the servant of the servants of God, he at least 
longed to make them feel that this new gospel of ser- 
vice was the base on which all sovereignty must hence- 
forth repose. 

It was not that his first year of power had been with- 
out moments of disillusionment He had had more than 
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THE REWARD 

one embittering experience of intrigue and perfidy, more 
than one glimpse of the pit&lls besetting his course; 
but his confidence in his own powers and his faith in 
his people remained unshaken, and with two such be- 
liefs to sustain him it seemed as though no difficulties 
would prove insurmountable. 

Such at least was the mood in which, on the morn- 
ing of his entry into Pianura, he prepared to face his 
subjects. Strangely enough, the state entry began at 
Ponte di Po, the very spot where, on a stormy mid- 
night some seven years earlier, the new Duke had 
landed, a fugitive from his future realm. Here, accord- 
ing to an ancient custom, the sovereign awaited the 
arrival of his ministers and court; and then, taking seat 
in his state barge, proceeded by water to Pianura, fol- 
lowed by an escort of galleys. 

A great tent hung with tapestries had been set up on 
the river-bank; and here Odo awaited the approach of 
the barge. As it touched at the landing-stage he stepped 
out, and his prime-minister. Count Trescorre, advanced 
toward him, accompanied by the dignitaries of the 
court Trescorre had aged in the intervening years. His 
delicate features had withered like a woman^ and the 
fine irony of his smile had taken an edge of cruelty. 
His &ce suggested a worn engraving, the lines of which 
have been deepened by a too-incisive instrument. 

The functionaries attending him were, with few ex- 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

ceptions, the same who had figured in a like capacity 
at the late sovereign's court With the passing of the 
years they had grown heavier or thinner, more pon- 
derous or stiffer in their movements, and as they ad- 
vanced, in their splendid but unwieldy coiui^ dress, they 
seemed to Odo like superannuated marionettes whose 
springs and wires have rusted from disuse. 

The barge was a magnificent gilded Bucentaur, pre- 
sented to the late Duke's father by the Doge of Venice, 
and carved by his Serenity's most famous sculptors in 
wood. Tritons and sea-goddesses encircled the prow and 
throned above the stem, and the interior of the deck- 
house was adorned with delicate rilievi and painted by 
Tiepolo with scenes from the myth of Amphitrite. Here 
the new Duke seated himself, surrounded by his house- 
hold, and presently the heavy crafb, rowed by sixty 
galley-slaves, was moving slowly up the river toward 
Pianura. 

In the dear spring light the old walled city, with its 
domes and towers, rose pleasantly among budding or- 
chards and fields. Close at hand were the creneUations 
of Bracdaforte's keep, and just beyond, the ornate 
cupola of the royal chapel, symbolizing in their prox- 
imity the successive ambitions of the ducal race; while 
the round-arched campanile of the Cathedral and the 
square tower of the mediaeval town-hall sprang up side 
by side, marking the centre of the free dty which the 
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THE REWARD 

Valseccas had subjugated. It seemed to the new Duke, 
who was given to such reflections, that he could read his 
race's history in that broken sky-line; but he was soon 
snatched from its perusal by the shouts of the crowd 
who thronged the river-bank to greet his approach. 

As the Bucentaur touched at the landing-stage and 
Odo stepped out on the red carpet strewn with flowers, 
while cannon thundered fi^m the walls and the bells 
burst into renewed jubilation, he felt himself for the 
first time face to face with his people. The very cere- 
monial which in other cases kept them apart was now 
a means of closer communication; for it was to show 
himself to them that he was making a public entry into 
his capital, and it was to see him that the city had 
poured forth her shouting throngs. The shouts rose and 
widened as he advanced, enveloping him in a mounting 
tide of welcome, in which cannon, bells and voices — the 
decreed and the spontaneous acclamations — were indis- 
tinguishably merged. In like manner, approbation of his 
person was mingled with a simple enjojnnent of the 
show of which he formed a part; and it must have taken 
a more experienced head than Odo's to distinguish be- 
tween the two currents of enthusiasm on which he felt 
himself swept forward. 

The pageant was indeed brilliant enough to justify 
the popular transport; and the fact that the new Duke 
formed a worthy centre to so much magnificence was 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

not lost on his splendor-loying subjects. The late sov- 
ereign had so long held himself aloof that the city was 
unaccustomed to such shows, and as the procession 
wound into the square before the Cathedral, where the 
thickest of the crowd was massed, the very pealing of 
the church-bells was lost in the roar of human voices. 

Don Seraiino, the Bishop^s nephew, and now Master 
of the Horse, rode first, on a splendid charger, preceded 
by four trumpets and followed by his esquires; then 
came the court dignitaries, attended by their pages and 
staffieri in gala liveries, the marshals with their staves, 
the masters of ceremony, and the clergy mounted on 
mules trapped with velvet, each led by two running 
footmen. The Duke rode next, alone and somewhat pale. 
Two pages of arms, helmeted and carrying lances, walked 
at his horse^s bridle; and behind him came his house- 
hold and ministers, with their gentlemen and a long 
train of servants, followed by the regiment of light 
horse which closed the procession. 

The houses surrounding the square afforded the best 
point of view to those unwilling to mix with the crowd 
in the streets; and among the spectators thronging the 
windows and balconies, and leaning over the edge of 
the leads, were many who, from one motive or another, 
felt a personal interest in the new Duke. The Mar- 
chioness of Boscofolto had accepted a seat in the win- 
dows of the Pievepelago palace, which formed an angle 
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THE REWARD 

of the square, and she and her hostess — the same lady 
who had been relieved of her diamond necklace by foot- 
pads suspected of wearing the Duchesses livery — sat 
observing the scene behind the garlanded balconies of 
the piano nobile. In the mezzanin windows of a neigh- 
boring wine-shop the bookseller Andreoni, with half a 
dozen members of the philosophical society to which 
Odo had belonged, peered above the heads of the crowd 
thronging the arcade, and through a dormer of the 
leads Carlo Gamba, the assistant in the ducal library, 
looked out on the triumph of his former patron. Among 
the Church dignitaries grouped about his Highness was 
Father Ignazio^ the late Duke^s confessor, now Prior of 
the Dominicans, and said to be withdrawn from politi- 
cal life. Seated on his richly-trapped mule he observed 
the scene with impassive face; while, from his place in 
the long line of minor cleigy, the abate Crescenti, with 
eyes of infinite tenderness and concern, watched the 
young Duke solemnly ascending the Cathedral steps. 

In the porch the Bishop waited, impressive as ever in 
his white and gold dalmatic, against the red robes of 
the chapter. Preceded by two chamberlains Odo mounted 
the steps amid the sudden silence of the people. The 
great bronze portals of the Cathedral, which were never 
opened save on occasions of state, swxmg slowly inward, 
pouring a wave of music and incense out upon the 
hushed sunlit square; then they closed again, engulph- 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

ing the brilliant procession — the Duke, the Bishop, 
the dergy and the court — and leaving the populace to 
scatter in search of the diversions prepared for them at 
every street-comer. 

It was not till late that night that the new Duke 
found himself alone. He had withdrawn at last from the 
torch-lit balcony overlooking the square, whither the 
shouts of his subjects had persistently recalled him. 
Silence was falling on the illuminated streets, and the 
dimness of midnight upon the sky through which rocket 
after rocket had torn its brilliant furrows. In the palace 
a profounder stillness reigned. Since his accession Odo, 
out of respect for the late Duke, had lodged in one of 
the wings of the great building; but tradition demanded 
that he should henceforth inhabit the ducal apartments, 
and thither, at the close of the day^s ceremonies, his 
gentlemen had conducted him. 

Trescorre had asked permission to wait on him before 
he slept; and he knew that the prime-minister would be 
kept late by his conference with the secret police, whose 
nightly report could not be handed in till the festivi- 
ties were over. Meanwhile Odo was in no mood for 
sleep. He sat alone in the closet, still hung with saints* 
images and jewelled reliquaries, where his cousin had so 
often given him audience, and whence, through the open 
door, he could see the embroidered curtains and plumed 
baldachin of the state bed which was presently to re- 
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THE REWARD 

oeive him. All day his heart had beat with high ambi- 
tions; but now a weight sank upon his spirit. The 
reaction fix)m the tumultuous welcome of the streets to 
the dosely-guarded silence of the palace made him feel 
how unreal was the fancied union between himself and 
his people, how insuperable the distance that tradition 
and habit had placed between them. In the narrow 
closet where his predecessor had taken refuge from 
the detested task of reigning, the new Duke felt the 
same moral lassitude steal over him. How was such a 
puny will as his to contend against the great forces of 
greed and prejudice? All the influences arrayed against 
him — tradition, superstition, the lust of power, the ar- 
rogance of race — seemed concentrated in the atmos- 
phere of that silent room, with its guarded] threshold, 
its pious relics, and, lying on the desk in the embrasure 
of the window, the manuscript litany which the late 
Duke had not lived to complete. 

Oppressed by his surroundings, Odo rose and entered 
the bed-chamber. A lamp burned before the image of 
the Madonna at the head of the bed, and two lighted 
flambeaux flanked the picture of the Last Judgment 
on the opposite walL Odo remembered the look of 
terror which the Duke had fixed on the picture during 
their first strange conversation. A pra3dng-stool stood 
beneath it, and it was said that here, rather than be- 
fore the Virgin^s image, the melancholy prince per- 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

fonned his private derotions. The horrors of the scene 
were depicted with a childish minuteness of detail, as 
though the painter had sought to produce an impres- 
sion of moral anguish by the accumulation of physical 
sufferings; and just such puerile images of the wrath to 
come may have haunted the mysterious recesses of the 
Duke^s imagination. Crescenti had told Odo how the 
d3ring man^s thoughts had seemed to centre upon this 
dreadful subject, and how again and again, amid his 
ravings, he had cried out that the picture must be 
burned, as though the sight of it was become intoler- 
able to him. 

Odo^s own mind, across which the events and emo- 
tions of the day still threw the fantastic shadows of an 
expiring illmnination, was wrought to the highest state 
of impressionability. He saw in a flash all that the 
picture must have symbolized to his cousin'^s fancy; 
and in his desire to reconstruct that djring vision of 
fleshly retribution, he stepped close to the diptych, 
resting a knee upon the stool beneath it. As he did so, 
the picture suddenly opened, disclosing the inner paneL 
Odo caught up one of the flambeaux, and in its light, 
as on a sunlit wave, there stepped forth to him the lost 
Venus of Giorgione. 

He knew the picture in an instant. There was no 
mistaking the glow of the limbs, the midsummer lan- 
guor of the smile, the magical atmosphere in which the 
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THE REWARD 

gold of sunlight, of autumn leaves, of amber grapes, 
seemed fused by some lost alchemy of the brush. As he 
gazed, the scene changed, and he saw himself in a dark- 
ened room with cabalistic hangings. He saw Heiligen- 
stem^s tall figure, towering in supernatural light, the 
Duke leaning eagerly forward, the Duchess with set lips 
and troubled eyes, the little prince bent wonderingly 
above the magic crystal. . . 

A step in the antechamber announced Trescorre^s 
approach. Odo returned to the cabinet and the minister 
advanced with a low bow. The two men had had time 
to grow accustomed to the new relation in which they 
stood to one another, yet there were moments when, to 
Odo, the past seemed to lie like fallen leaves beneath 
Trescorre^s steps — Donna Laura, fond and foolish in 
her weeds, Gamba, Momola, and the poor featherhead 
Cerveno, dying at nineteen of a distemper because he 
had stood in the other^s way. The impression was strong 
on him now — but it was only momentary. Habit reas- 
serted itself, and the minister effaced the man. Odo 
signed to Trescorre to seat himself and the latter si- 
lently presented his report 

He was a diligent and capable administrator, and 

however mixed might be the motives which attached 

him to his sovereign, they did not interfere with the 

exact performance of his duties. Odo knew this and was 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

grateful for it. He knew that Trescorre, ambitious of 
the regency, had intrigued against him to the last. He 
knew that an intemperate love of power was the main- 
spring of that seemingly dispassionate nature. But death 
had crossed Trescorre^s schemes; and he was too adroit 
an opportunist not to see that his best chance now lay 
in making himself indispensable to his new sovereign. 
Of all this Odo was aware; but his own motives in ap- 
pointing Trescorre did not justify his looking for great 
disinterestedness in his minister. The irony of circum- 
stances had forced them upon each other, and each 
knew that the other understood the situation and was 
prepared to make the best of it. 

The Duke presently rose, and handed back to Tres- 
corre the reports of the secret police. They were the 
dodunents he most disliked to handle. 

** You have acquitted yourself admirably of your dis- 
agreeable duties,^ he said with a smile. ^^I hope I have 
done as welL At any rate the day is over.^ 

Trescorre returned the smile, with his usual tinge of 
irony. "Another has already begun,^ said he. 

"Ah,^ said Odo, with a touch of impatience, "are we 
not to sleep on our laurels?'* 

Trescorre bowed. "Austria, your Highness, never 
sleeps.*" 

Odo looked at him with siuprise. "What do you 
mean?'' 

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THE REWARD 

"That I have to remind your Highness — ^ 

"Of what— ?^ 

Trescorre had one of his characteristic pauses. 

"That the Duke of Monte Alloro is in failing health 
— and that her Highnesses year of widowhood ended 
yesterday.'' 

There was a silence. Odo, who had reseated himself, 
rose and walked to the window. The shutters stood 
open and he looked out over the formless obscurity of 
the gardens. Above the intervening masses of foliage 
the Borromini wing raised its vague grey bulk. He saw 
lights in Maria Clementina's apartments and wondered 
if she still waked. An hour or two earlier she had given 
him her hand in the contra-dance at the state ball. It 
was her first public appearance since the late Duke's 
death, and with the la3dng off of her weeds she had 
regained something of her former brilliancy. At the 
moment he had hardly observed her: she had seemed a 
mere inanimate part of the pageant of which he formed 
the throbbing centre. But now the sense of her nearness 
pressed upon him. She seemed close to him, ingrown 
with his fate; and with the curious duality of vision 
that belongs to such moments he beheld her again as 
she had first shone on him — the imperious child whom 
he had angered by stroking her spaniel, the radiant girl 
who had welcomed him on his return to Fianura. Tres- 
corre's voice aroused him. 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

"At any moment,^ the minister was sa3dng, "her 
Highness may fisJl heir to Monte Alloro. It is the mo- 
ment for which Austria waits. There is always an Arch- 
duke ready — and her Highness is still a young woman.^ 

Odo turned slowly fix>m the window. "I have told 
you that this is impossible,^ he murmured. 

Trescorre looked down and thoughtfully fingered the 
documents in his hands. 

"Your Highness,^ said he, "is as well-acquainted as 
your ministers with the difficulties that beset us. Monte 
Alloro is one of the richest states in Italy. It is a pity 
to alienate such revenues fix>m Pianura." 

The new Duke was silent. His minister's words were 
merely the audible expression of his own thoughts. He 
knew that the fiiture welfare of Pianura depended on 
the annexation of Monte Alloro. He owed it to his 
people to unite the two sovereignties. 

At length he said: "You are building upon an un- 
warrantable assumption.^ 

Trescorre raised an interrogative glance. 

"You assume her Highnesses consent.'' 

The minister again paused; and his pause seemed to 
flash an ironical light on the poverty of the other's 
defences. 

"I come straight from her Highness," said he quietly, 
"and I assume nothing that I am not in a position to 
affirm." 

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Odo turned on him with a start **Do I understand 
that you have presumed — ?'^ 

His minister raised a deprecating hand. ^^Sir,^ said 
he, ^^the Archduke'^s envoy is in Fianura.^ 

II 

ODOy on his return to Pianura, had taken it for 
granted that de Crucis would remain in his service. 

There had been little talk between the two on the 
way. The one was deep in his own wretchedness, and 
the other had too fine a tact to intrude on it; but Odo 
felt the nearness of that penetrating sympathy which 
was almost a gift of divination. He was glad to have de 
Crucis at his side at a moment when any other com- 
panionship had been intolerable; and in the egotism of 
his misery he imagined that he could dispose as he 
pleased of his friend^s Aiture. 

After the little princess death, however, de Crucis 
had at once asked permission to leave Pianura. He was 
perhaps not displeased by Odo^s expressions of surprise 
and disappointment; but they did not alter his de- 
cision. He reminded the new Duke that he had been 
called to Pianura as governor to the late heir, and that, 
death having cut short his task, he had now no farther 
pretext for remaining. 

Odo listened with a strange sense of loneliness. The 
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responsibilities of his new state weighed heavily on the 
musing speculative side of his nature. Face to face with 
the sudden summons to action, with the necessity for 
prompt and not too-curious choice of means and method, 
the felt a stealing apathy of the will, an inclination 
^toward the subtle dufiJity of judgment that had so often 
weakened and diffused his energies. At such a crisis it 
seemed to him that, de Crucis gone, he remained with- 
out a friend. He urged the abate to reconsider his deci- 
sion, begging him to choose a post about his person. 
De Crucis shook his head. 

"The offer," said he, "is more tempting to me than 
your Highness can guess; but my business here is at an 
end, and must be taken up elsewhere. My calling is that 
of a pedagogue. When I was summoned to take charge 
of Prince Ferrante^s education I gave up my position in 
the household of Prince Bracciano not only because I 
believed that I could make myself more useful in train- 
ing a Aiture sovereign than the son of a private noble- 
man, but also," he added with a smile, "because I was 
curious to visit a state of which your Highness had so 
often spoken, and because I believed that my residence 
here might enable me to be of service to your High- 
ness. In this I was not mistaken; and I will gladly re- 
main in Pianura long enough to give your Highness 
such counsels as my experience suggests; but that busi- 
ness discharged, I must ask leave to go." 
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THE REWARD 

From this position no entreaties could move him; 
and so fixed was his resolve that it confirmed the idea 
that he was still a secret agent of the Jesuits. Strangely 
enough, this did not prejudice Odo, who was more than 
ever under the spell of de Crucis'^s personal influence. 
Though Odo had been acquainted with many professed) 
philosophers he had never met among them a character! 
so nearly resembling the old stoical ideal of temperance i 
and serenity, and he could never be long with de Crucis 
without reflecting that the training which could form 
and nourish so noble a nature must be other than the 
world conceived it. 

De Crucis, however, frankly pointed out that his 
former connection with the Jesuits was too well known 
in Pianura not to be an obstacle in the way of his use- 
fulness. 

^I own,^ said he, ^that before the late Duke^s death 
I exerted such influence as I possessed to bring about 
your Highnesses appointment as regent; but the very 
connections that favored me with your predecessor must 
stand in the way of my serving your Highness. Nothing 
could be more jEettal to your prospects than to have it 
said that you had chosen a former Jesuit as your ad- 
viser. In the present juncture of afikirs it is needful 
that you should appear to be in sympathy with the lib- 
erals, and that whatever reforms you attempt should 
seem the result of popular pressure rather than of your 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

own free choice. Such an attitude may not flatter the 
sovereign's pride, and is in tact merely a higher form 
of expediency; but it is one which the proudest mon- 
archs of Europe are finding themselves constrained to 
take if they would preserve their power and use it ef- 
fectually." 

Soon afterward de Cruds left Pianura; but before 
leaving he imparted to Odo the result of his obser- 
vations while in the late Duke's service. De Crucis's 
view was that of the more thoughtful men of his day 
who had not broken with the Church, yet were con- 
scious that the whole social system of Europe was in 
need of renovation. The movement of ideas in France, 
and their rapid transformation into legislative measures 
of unforeseen importance, had as yet made little im- 
pression in Italy; and the clergy in particular lived in 
serene unconsciousness of any impending change. De 
Crucis, however, had been much in France, and had 
frequented the French churchmen, who (save in the 
highest ranks of the hierarchy) were keenly alive to the 
need of reform, and ready, in many instances, to sacri- 
fice their own privileges in the public cause. These men, 
living in their provincial cures or abbeys, were necessa- 
rily in closer contact with the people, better acquainted 
with their needs and more competent to relieve them, 
than the city demagogues theorizing in Parisian cofiee- 
houses on the Rights of Man and the Code of Nature. 
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THE REWARD 

But the Toice of the demagogues carried further than 
that of the clergy; and such revolutionary notions as 
crossed the Alps had more to do with the founding of 
future Utopias than with the remedy of present evils. 

Even in France the temperate counsels of the clergy 
were being overruled by the sentimental imprudences 
of the nobles and by the bluster of the politicians. It 
was to put Odo on his guard against these two influ- 
ences that de Crucis was chiefly anxious; but the intelli- 
gent cooperation of the clergy was sadly lacking in his 
administrative scheme. He knew that Odo could not 
count on the support of the Church party, and that he 
must make what use he could of the liberals in his 
attempts at reform. The clergy of Pianura had been in 
power too long to believe in the necessity of conceding 
anjrthing to the new spirit; and since the banishment 
of the Society of Jesus the presumption of the other 
orders had increased instead of diminishing. The priests, 
whatever their failings, had attached the needy by a 
lavish bounty; and they had a powerful auxiliary in the 
Madonna of the Mountain, who drew pilgrims from all 
parts of Italy and thus contributed to the material wel- 
fare of the state as well as to its spiritual privileges. To 
the common people their Virgin was not only a protec- 
tion against disease and famine, but a kind of oracle, 
who by divers signs and tokens gave evidence of divine 
approval or displeasure; and it was naturally to the 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

priests that the faithful lcx>ked for a reading of these 
phenomena. This gave the clergy a powerful hold on 
the religious sensibilities of the people; and more than 
once the manifest disapproval of the Mountain Ma- 
donna had turned the scales against some economic 
measure which threatened the rights of her augurs. 

De Crucis understood the force of these traditional 
influences; but Odo, in common with the more culti- 
vated men of his day, had lived too long in an atmos- 
phere of polite scepticism to measure the profound hold 
of religion on the consciousness of the people. Christ 
had been so long banished fix)m the drawing-room that 
it was hard to believe that He still ruled in field and 
vineyard. To men of Odor's stamp the piety of the 
masses was a mere superficifiJ growth, a kind of mental 
mould to be dried ofi^ by the first beams of knowledge. 
He did not conceive it as a habit of thought so old 
that it had become instinctive, so closely intertwined 
with eveiy sense that to hope to eradicate it was like 
trying to drain all the blood from a mane's body with- 
out killing him. He knew nothing of the unwearied 
workings of that power, patient as a natural force, 
which, to reach spirits darkened by ignorance and eyes 
dulled by toil, had stooped to a thousand disguises, 
humble, tender and grotesque — peopling the earth with 
a new race of avenging or protecting deities, guarding 
the babe in the cradle and the cattle in the stalls, 
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THE REWARD 

blessing the good man^s vineyard or blighting the crops 
of the blasphemer, guiding the lonely traveller over tor- 
rents and precipices, smoothing the sea and hushing the 
whirlwind, pra3ring with the mother over her sick child, 
and watching beside the dead in plague-house and laza- 
ret and galley — entering into every joy and grief of the 
obscurest consciousness, penetrating to depths of misery 
which no human compassion ever reached, and redress- 
ing by a prompt and summary justice wrongs of which 
no human legislation took account. 

Odo^s first act after his accession had been to recall 
the political offenders banished by his predecessor; and 
so general was the custom of marking the opening of a 
new reign by an amnesty to political exiles, that Tres- 
corre offered no opposition to the measure. Andreoni 
and his friends at once retiumed to Pianura, and Gamba 
at the same time emerged from his mysterious hiding- 
place. He was the only one of the group who struck 
Odo as having any administrative capacity; yet he was 
more likely to be of use as a pamphleteer than as an 
office-holder. As to the other philosophers, they were 
what their name implied: thoughtful and high-minded 
men, with a generous conception of their civic duties, 
and a noble readiness to fulfil them at any cost, but 
untrained to action, and totally ignorant of the com- 
plex science of government. 

Odo found the hunchback changed. He had withered 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

like Trescorrty but under the harsher blight of physical 
privations; and his tongue had an added bitterness. He 
replied evasively to all enquiries as to what had become 
of him during his absence from Fianura; but on Odo^s 
asking for news of Momola and the child he said coldly : 
"They are both dead." 

"Dead?'' Odo exclaimed. "Together?'' 

"There was scarce an hour between them," Gamba 
answered. "She said she must keep alive as long as the 
boy needed her — after that she turned on her side and 
died." 

"But of what disorder? How came they to sicken at 
the same time?" 

The hunchback stood silent, his eyes on the ground. 
Suddenly he raised them and looked Aill at the Duke. 

"Those that saw them called it the plague." 

"The plague? Good Gk)d!" Odo slowly returned his 
stare. "Is it possible — " he paused — "that she too was 
at the feast of the Madonna?" 

"She was there, but it was not there that she con- 
tracted the distemper." 

"Not there—?" 

"No; for she dragged herself from her bed to go." 

There was another silence. The hunchback had low- 
ered his eyes. The Duke sat motionless, resting his head 
on his hand. Suddenly he made a gesture of dismissal, , , 



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THE REWARD 

Two months after his state entry into Pianura Odo 
married his cousin^s widow. 

It surprised him, in looking back, to see how com- 
pletely the thought of Maria Clementina had passed 
out of his life, how wholly he had ceased to reckon 
with her as one of the factors in his destiny. At her 
child^s death-bed he had seen in her only the stricken 
mother, centred in her loss, and recalling, in an agony 
of tears, the little princess prophetic vision of the winged 
plajrmates who came to him carrying toys from Para- 
dise. After Prince Ferrante^s death she had gone on a 
long visit to her imcle of Monte AUoro; and since her 
return to Pianura she had lived in the dower-house, 
refusing Odo^s offer of a palace in the town. She had 
first shown herself to the public on the day of the state 
entry; and now, her year of widowhood over, she was 
again the consort of a reigning Duke of Pianura. 

No one was more ignorant than her husband of the 
motives determining her act. As Duchess of Monte 
Alloro she might have enjoyed the wealth and inde- 
pendence which her imcle^s death had bestowed on her, 
but in marrying again she resigned the right to her 
new possessions, which became vested in the crown of 
Pianura. Was it love that had prompted the sacrifice? 
As she stood beside him on the altar steps of the Cathe- 
dral, as she rode home beside him between their shout- 
ing subjects, Odo asked himself the question again and 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

again. The yean had dealt lightly with her, and she 
had crofsed the threshold of the thirties with the as- 
sured step of a woman who has no cause to fear what 
awaits her. But her blood no longer spoke her thoughts, 
and the transparence of youth had changed to a bril- 
liant density. He could not penetrate beneath the sur- 
face of her smile: she seemed to him like a beautiful 
toy which might conceal a lacerating weapon. 

Meanwhile between himself and any better under- 
standing of her stood the remembrance of their talk 
in the hunting-lodge of Pontesordo. What she had of- 
fered then he had refused to take: was she the woman 
to foiget such a refusal? Was it not rather to keep its 
memory alive that she had married him? Or was she 
but the flighty girl he had once imagined her, driven 
hither and thither by spasmodic impulses, and incapa- 
ble of consistent action, whether for good or ill? The 
barrier of their past — of all that lay unsaid and un- 
done between them — so completely cut her off from 
him that he had, in her presence, the strange sensation 
of a man who believes himself to be alone yet feels that 
he is watched. . • The first months of their marriage 
were oppressed by this sense of constraint; but gradu- 
ally habit bridged the distance between them and he 
found himself at once nearer to her and less acutely 
aware of her. In the second year an heir was bom and 
died; and the hopes and grief thus shared drew them 
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THE REWARD 

insensibly into the relation of the ordinary husband and 
wife, knitted together at the roots in spite of superficial 
diveigencies. 

In his passionate need of sympathy and counsel Odo 
longed to make the most of this enforced commimity 
of interests. Already his first zeal was flagging, his be- 
lief in his mission wavering: he needed the encourage- 
ment of a kindred faith. He had no hope of finding in 
Maria Clementina that pure passion for justice which 
seemed to him the noblest ardor of the soul. He had 
read it in one woman^s eyes, but these had long been 
turned from him. Unconsciously perhaps he coimted 
rather on his wife^s less generous qualities: the passion 
for dominion, the blind arrogance of temper that, for 
the mere pleasure of making her power felt, had so 
often drawn her into public affairs. Might not this 
waste force — which implied, after all, a certain prodi- 
gality of courage — be used for good as well as evil? 
Might not his influence make of the undisciplined crea- 
ture at his side an imconscious instrument in the great 
work of order and reconstruction? 

His first appeal to her brought the answer. At his 
request his ministers had drawn up a plan of financial 
reorganization, which should include the two duchies; 
for Monte Alloro, though wealthier than Pianura, was 
in even greater need of fiscal reform. As a first step 
toward replenishing the treasiuy the Duke had declared 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

himself ready to limit his private expenditure to a fixed 
sum; and he now asked the Duchess to pledge herself 
in the same manner. Maria Clementina, since her uncle^s 
death, had been in receipt of a third of the annual reve- 
nues of Monte Alloro. This should have enabled her to 
pay her debts and put some dignity and order into her 
establishment; but the first year's income had gone in 
the building of a villa on the Plana, in imitation of the 
country-seats along the Brenta; the second was spent 
in establishing a menagerie of wild animals like that of 
the French Queen at Versailles; and rumor had it that 
the Duchess carried her imitation of her royal cousin 
so far as to be involved in an ugly quarrel with her 
jewellers about a necklace for which she owed a thou- 
sand ducats. 

All these reports had of course reached Odo; but he 
still hoped that an appeal to her love of dominion 
might prove stronger than the habit of self-indulgence. 
He said to himself that nothing had ever been done 
to rouse her ambition, that hitherto, if she had med- 
dled in politics, it had been merely from thwarted 
vanity or the desire to gratify some personal spite. 
Now he hoped to take her by higher passions, and by 
associating her with his own schemes to utiUze her 
dormant energies. 

For the first moments she listened with the strained 
fixity of a child; then her attention flickered and died 
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THE REWARD 

out. The life-long habit of referring every question to a 
personal standpoint made it difficult for her to follow a 
general argument, and she leaned back with the resigned 
eyelids of piety under the pulpit. Odo, resolved to be 
patient, and seeing that the subject was too large for 
her, tried to take it apart, putting it before her bit by 
bit, and at such an angle that she should catch her 
own reflection in it. He thought to take her by the 
Austrian side, touching on the well-known antagonism 
between Vienna and Rome, on the reforms of the Tus- 
can Grand-Duke, on the Emperor Joseph^s open defi- 
ance of the Churches feudal claims. But she scented a 
personal application. 

^^My cousin the Emperor should be a priest himself,^ 
she shrugged, ^^for he belongs to the preaching order. 
He never goes to France but he gives the poor Queen 
such a scolding that her eyes are red for a week. Has 
Joseph been trying to set our house in order?** 

Discouraged, but more than ever bent on patience, 
he tried the chord of vanity, of her love of popularity. 
The people called, her the beautiful Duchess — why not 
let history name her the great? But the mention of 
history was imfortunate. It reminded her of her lesson- 
books, and of the stupid Greeks and Romans, whose 
dates she could never recall. She hoped she should 
never be anything as dull as an historical personage! 
And besides, greatness was for the men — it was enough 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

for a princess to be virtuous. And she looked [as edify- 
ing as her own epitaph. 

He caught this up and tried to make her distinguish 
between the public and the private virtues. But the 
word respanstbUih/ slipped from him and he felt her 
stiffen. This was preaching, and she hated preaching 
even more than history. Her attention strayed again 
and he rallied his forces in a last appeal. But he knew 
it was a lost battle: every argument broke against the 
close front of her indifference. He was talking a lan- 
guage she had never learned — it was all as remote from 
her as Church Latin. A princess did not need to know 
Latin. She let her eye linger suggestively on the clock. 
It was a fine himting morning, and she had meant to 
kill a stag in the Caccia del Vescovo. 

When he began to sum up, and the question nar- 
rowed to a direct appeal, her eyes left the clock and 
returned to him. Now she was listening. He pressed on 
to the matter of retrenchment. Would she join him, 
would she help to make the great work possible? At 
first she seemed hardly to understand; but as his mean- 
ing grew clear to her — "Is the money no longer ours?" 
she exclaimed. 

He hesitated. "I suppose it is as much ours as ever," 
he said. 

"And how much is that?" she asked impatiently. 

"It is oiurs as a trust for our people." 
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THE REWARD 

She stared in honest wonder. These were new signs in 
her heaven. 

^^A trust? A trust? I am not sure that I know what 
that means. Is the money ours or theirs?^ 

He hesitated. "In strict honor, it is ours only as long 
as we spend it for their benefit.'" 

She turned aside to examine an enamelled patch- 
box by Van Blarenberghe which the court jeweller had 
newly received from Paris. When she raised her eyes she 
said: "And if we do not spend it for their benefit — ?'' 

Odo glanced about the room. He looked at the deli- 
cate adornment of the walls, the curtains of Lyons 
damask, the crystal girandoles, the toys in porcelain of 
Saxony and Sevres, in bronze and ivory and Chinese 
lacquer, crowding the tables and cabinets of inlcdd 
wood. Overhead floated a rosy allegory by Luca Gior- 
dano; underfoot lay a carpet of the royal manufactory 
of France; and through the open windows he heard the 
plash of the garden foimtains and saw the alignment 
of the long green alleys set with the statues of Roman 
patriots. 

"Then," said he — and the words sounded strangely 
in his own ears — "then they may take it from us some 
day — and all this with it, to the very toy you are 
pla3ring with.'' 

She rose, and from her fullest height dropped a bril- 
liant smile on him; then her eyes turned to the portrait 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

of the great fighting Duke set in the monumental stucchi 
of the chimney-piece. 

"If you take after your ancestors you will know how 
to defend it,^ she said. 



Ill 

THE new Duke sat in his closet The walls had 
been stripped of their pious relics and lined with 
books, and above the fireplace hung the Venus of 
Giorgione, liberated at last from her long imprison- 
ment. The windows stood open, admitting the soft Sep- 
tember air. Twilight had fallen on the gardens, and 
through it a young moon floated above the cypresses. 
On just such an evening three years earlier he had 
ridden down the slope of the Monte Baldo with Fulvia 
Vivaldi at his side. How often, since, he had relived the 
incidents of that night! With singular precision they 
succeeded each other in his thoughts. He felt the wild 
sweep of the storm across the lake, the wcumth of her 
nearness, the sense of her complete trust in him; then 
their arrival at the inn, the dazzle of light as they 
crossed the threshold, and de Crucis confronting them 
within. He heard her voice pleading with him in every 
accent that pride and tenderness and a noble loyalty 
could command; he felt her will slowly dominating his, 
like a supematiural power forcing him into his destined 
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THE REWARD 

path; he felt — and with how profound an irony of 
spirit! — the passion of self-dedication in which he had 
taken up his task. 

He had known moments of happiness since; moments 
when he believed in himself and in his calling, and felt 
himself indeed the man she thought him. That was in 
the exaltation of the first months, when his opportimi- 
ties had seemed as boimdless as his dreams, and he had 
not yet learned that the sovereign's power may be a 
kind of spiritual prison to the man. Since then, indeed, 
he had known another kind of happiness, had been 
aware of a secret voice whispering within him that she 
was right and had chosen wisely for him; but this was 
when he had realized that he lived in a prison, and had 
begun to admire the sumptuous adornment of its walls. 
For a while the mere external show of power amused 
him, and his imagination was charmed by the historic 
dignity of his surroundings. In such a setting, against 
the backgroimd of such a past, it seemed easy to play 
the benefactor and friend of the people. His sensibility 
was touched by the contrast, and he saw himself as a 
picturesque figure linking the new dreams of liberty 
and equality to the feudal traditions of a thousand 
years. But this masquerading soon ceased to divert him. 
The round of court ceremonial wearied him, and books 
and art lost their fascination. The more he varied his 
amusements the more monotonous they became, the 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

more he crowded his life with petty duties the more 
empty of achievement it seemed. 

At first he had hoped to bury his personal dis- 
appointments in the task of reconstructing his little 
state; but on every side he felt a mute resistance to his 
efforts. The philosophical faction had indeed poured 
forth pamphlets celebrating his reforms, and compar- 
ing his reign to the return of the Golden Age. But it 
was not for the philosophers that he labored; and the 
benefits of free speech, a fr-ee press, a secular education 
did not, after all, reach those over whom his heart 
yearned. It was the people he longed to serve; and the 
people were hungry, were fever-stricken, were crushed 
with tithes and taxes. It was hopeless to try to reach 
them by the difiusion of popular knowledge. They must 
first be fed and clothed; and before they could be fed 
and clothed the chains of feudalism must be broken. 

Men like Gamba and Andreoni saw this clearly 
enough; but it was not from them that help could 
come. The nobility and clergy must be coaxed or co- 
erced into sympathy with the new movement; and to 
accomplish this exceeded Odo^s powers. In France, the 
revolt from feudalism had found some of its boldest 
leaders in the very class that had most to lose by the 
change; but in Italy fewer causes were at work to set 
such disinterested passions in motion. South of the 
Alps liberalism was merely one of the new fiuduons 
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THE REWARD 

from France: the men ran after the pamphlets from 
Pauis as the women ran after the cosmetics; and the 
politics went no deeper than the powder. Even among 
the freest intellects liberalism resulted in a new way of 
thinking rather than in a new way of living. Nowhere 
among the better classes was there any desire to attack 
existing institutions. The Church had never troubled 
the Latin consciousness. The Renaissance had taught 
cultivated Italians how to live at peace with a creed in 
which they no longer believed; and their easy-going 
scepticism was combined with a traditional conviction 
that the priest knew better than any one how to deal 
with the poor, and that the clergy were of distinct use 
in relieving the individual conscience of its obligation 
to its fellows. 

It was against such deep-seated habits of thought 
that Odo had to struggle. Centuries of fierce individu- 
alism, or of suUen apathy under a foreign rule, had left 
the Italians incapable of any concerted political action; 
but suspicion, avarice and vanity, combined with a 
liurking fear of the Church, united all parties in a kind 
of passive opposition to reform. Thus the Duke^s re- 
solve to put the University under lay direction had ex- 
cited the enmity of the Bamabites, who had been at its 
head since the suppression of the Society of Jesus; his 
efiPorts to partition among the peasantry the Cacda del 
Vescovo, that great waste domain of the see of Pianura, 
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had roused a storm of fear among all who lead claim to 
feudal rights; and his own personal attempts at re- 
trenchment, which necessitated the suppression of nu- 
merous court offices, had done more than anything else 
to increase his unpopularity. Even the people, in whose 
behalf these sacrifices were made, looked askance at his 
diminished state, and showed a perverse sympathy with 
the dispossessed officiab who had taken so picturesque 
a part in the public ceremonials of the court. All Odo^s 
philosophy could not fortify him against such disillu- 
sionments. He felt the lack of Fulvia^s unquestioning 
faith not only in the abstract beauty of the new ideals 
but in their immediate adaptability to the complex 
conditions of life. Only a woman^s convictions, nour- 
ished on sentiment and self-sacrifice, could bum with 
that clear unwavering flame: his own beliefs were at 
the mercy of every wind of doubt or ingratitude that 
blew across his unsheltered sensibilities. 

It was more than a year since he had had news of 
Fulvia. For a while they had exchanged letters, and it 
had been a consolation to tell her of his struggles and 
experiments, of his many failiu^es and few results. She 
had encouraged him to continue the struggle, had ana- 
lyzed his various plans of reform, and had given her 
enthusiastic support to the partitioning of the Bishop''s 
fief and the secularization of the University. Her own 
life, she said, was too uneventful to write of; but she 
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THE REWARD 

spoke of the kindness of her hosts, the Professor and 
his wife, of the simple unceremonious way of living in 
the old Calvinist city, and of the number of distin- 
guished persons drawn thither by its atmosphere of in- 
tellectual and social freedom. 

Odo suspected a certain colorlessness in the life she 
depicted. The tone of her letters was too uniformly 
cheerful not to suggest a lack of emotional variety; and 
he knew that Fulvia^s nature, however much she fancied 
it under the rule of reason, was in reality fed by pro- 
found currents of feeling. Something of her old ardor 
reappeared when she wrote of the possibility of publish- 
ing her father^s book. Her friends in Geneva, having 
heard of her difficulty with the Dutch publisher, had 
undertaken to vindicate her claims; and they had every 
hope that the matter would be successfully concluded. 
The joy of renewed activity with which this letter 
glowed would have communicated itself to Odo had he 
received it at a different time; but it came on the day 
of his marriage, and since then he had never written 
to her. 

Now he felt a sudden longing to break the silence 
between them, and seating himself at his desk he began 
to write. A moment later there was a knock on the 
door and one of his gentlemen entered. The Count Vit- 
torio Alfieri, with a dozen horses and as many servants, 
was newly arrived at the Golden Cross, and desired to 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

know when he mig^t have the honor of waiting on his 
Highness. 

Odo felt the sudden glow of pleasure that the news 
of Alfieri^s coming always brought. Here was a friend 
at last! He forgot the constraint of their last meeting 
in Florence, and remembered only the happy inter- 
change of ideas and emotions that had been one of the 
quickening influences of his youth. 

Alfieri, in the intervening years, was grown to be 
one of the foremost figures in Italy. His love for the 
Coimtess of Albany, persisting through the vicissitudes 
of her tragic marriage, had rallied the scattered forces 
of his nature. Ambitious to excel for her sake, to show 
himself worthy of such a love, he had at last shaken ofi^ 
the strange torpor of his youth, and revealed himself 
as the poet for whom Italy waited. In ten months of 
feverish effort he had poured forth fourteen tragedies 
— among them the Antigone, the Virginia, and the 
Conjuration of the Pazzi. Italy started up at the sound 
of a new voice vibrating with passions she had long 
since unlearned. Since Filicaja^s thrilling appeal to his 
enslaved country no poet had challenged the old Ro- 
man spirit which Petrarch had striven to rouse. While 
the literati were busy discussing Alfieri^s blank verse, 
while the grammarians wrangled over his syntax and 
ridiculed his solecisms, the public, heedless of such 
niceties, was glowing with the new wine which he had 
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THE REWARD 

poured into the old vessels of classic story. Liberty was 
the cry that rang on the lips of all his heroes, in ac- 
cents so new and stirring that his audience never wearied 
of its repetition. It was no secret that his stories of 
ancient Greece and Rome were but allegories meant to 
teach the love of freedom; yet the Antigone had been 
performed in the private theatre of the Spanish Am* 
bassador at Rome, the Virginia had been received with 
applause on the public boards at Turin, and after 
the usual difficulties with the censorship the happy 
author had actually succeeded in publishing his plays 
at Siena. These volumes were already in Odo^s hands, 
and a manuscript copy of the Odes to Free America 
was being circulated among the liberals in Pianura, 
and had been brought to his notice by Andreoni. 

To those hopeful spirits who looked for the near 
approach of a happier era, Alfieri was the inspired 
spokesman of reform, the heaven-sent prophet who was 
to lead his country out of bondage. The eyes of the 
Italian reformers were fixed with passionate eagerness 
on the course of events in England and France. The 
conclusion of peace between England and America, re- 
cently celebrated in Alfieri^s fifth Ode, seemed to the 
most sceptical convincing proof that the rights of man 
were destined to a speedy triumph throughout the civ- 
ilized world. It was not of a united Italy that these 
enthusiasts dreamed. They were not so much patriots 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

as philanthropists; for the teachings of Rousseau and 
his school, while intensifying the love of man for man» 
had proportionately weakened the sense of patriotism, 
of the irUirits du clocher. The new man prided himself 
on being a citizen of the world, on sympathizing as 
warmly with the poetic savage of Peru as with his own 
prosaic and narrow-minded neighbors. Indeed, the prev- 
alent belief that the savage^s mode of life was much 
nearer the truth than that of civilized Europeans, made 
it appear superfluous to enter into the grievances and 
difficulties of what was but a passing phase of human 
development. To cast off clothes and codes, and live 
in a peaceful socialism ^ under the amiable reign of 
Truth and Nature,^^ seemed on the whole much easier 
than to undertake the systematic reform of existing 
abuses. 

To such dreamers — whose ideas were those of the 
majority of intelligent men in France and Italy — 
Alfieri^s high-sounding tirades embodied the noblest 
of political creeds; and even the soberer judgment of 
statesmen and men of affairs was captivated by the 
grandeur of his verse and the heroic audacity of his 
theme. For the first time in centuries the Italian Muse 
spoke with the voice of a man; and every man^s heart 
in Italy sprang up at the call. 

In the midst of these triumphs, fate in the shape of 
Cardinal York had momentarily separated Alfieri from 
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his mistress, despatching the too-tender Countess to a 
discreet retreat in Alsace, and signifjdng to her turbu- 
lent adorer that he was not to follow her. Distracted 
by this prohibition, Alfieri had resumed the nomadic 
habits of his youth, now wandering from one Italian 
city to another, now pushing as far as Paris, which he 
hated but was always revisiting, now dashing across the 
Channel to buy thoroughbreds in England — for his 
passion for horses was unabated. He was lately returned 
from such an expedition, having led his cavalcade across 
the Alps in person, with a boyish delight in the aston- 
ishment which this fantastic exploit excited. 

The meeting between the two friends was all that 
Odo could have wished. Though affecting to scorn the 
courts of princes, Alfieri was not averse to showing him- 
self there as the poet of the democracy, and to hearing 
his heroes mouth their tyrannicidal speeches on the 
boards of royal and ducal stages. He had lately made 
some stay in Milan, where he had arrived in time to 
see his Antigone performed before the vice-regal court, 
and to be enthusiasticaUy acclaimed as the high-priest 
of liberty by a community living placidly under the 
Austrian yoke. Alfieri was not the man to be struck 
by such incongruities. It was his fate to formulate 
creeds in which he had no faith: to recreate the politi- 
cal ideals of Italy while bitterly opposed to €uiy actual 
effort at reform, and to be regarded as the mouthpiece 
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of the Revolution while he execrated the Revolution 
with the whole force of his traditional instincts. As 
usual he was too deeply engrossed in his own affairs to 
feel much interest in any others; but it was enough for 
Odo to clasp the hand of the man who had given a 
voice to the highest aspirations of his countrymen. The 
poet gave more than he could expect from the friend; 
and he was satisfied to listen to Alfieri^s account of 
his triumphs, interspersed with bitter diatribes against 
the public whose applause he courted, and the Pope to 
whom, on bended knee, he had offered a copy of his 
plajTs. 

Odo eagerly pressed Alfieri to remain in Pianura, 
offering to put one of the ducal villas at his disposal, 
and suggesting that the Virginia should be performed 
before the coiurt on the Duchesses birthday. 

"It is true," he said, "that we can offer you but an 
indifferent company of actors; but it might be possible 
to obtain one or two of the leading tragedians from 
Turin or Milan, so that the principal parts should at 
least be worthily filled." 

Alfieri replied with a contemptuous gesture. "Your 
Highness, oiu- leading tragedians are monkeys trained 
to dance to the tune of Goldoni and Metastasio. The 
best are no better than the worst. We have no trage- 
dians in Italy because — hitherto — we have had no 
tragic dramatist." He drew himself up and thrust a 
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hand in his bosom. ^ Ah!^ he exclaimed, ^^if I could see 
the part of Virginia acted by the lady who recently re« 
dted, before a small company in Milan, my Odes to 
Free America! There indeed were fire, sublimity and 
passion! And the countenance had not lost its fresh- 
ness, the eye its lustre. But,^ he suddenly added, ^^your 
Highness knows of whom I speak. The lady is Fulvia 
Vivaldi, the daughter of the philosopher at whose feet 
we sat in oiu- youth.^ 

Fuivia Vivaldi! Odo raised his head with a start. She 
bad left Greneva then, had returned to Italy. The Alps 
no longer divided them — a scant day^s journey would 
bring him to her side! It was strange how the mere 
thought seemed to fill the room with her presence. He 
felt her in the quickened beat of his pulses, in the sud- 
den lightness of the air, in a lifting and widening of 
the very bounds of thought. 

From Alfieri he learned that she had lived for some 
months in the household of the distinguished naturalist. 
Count Castiglione, with whose daughter's education she 
was charged. In such surroundings her wit and learning 
could not £edl to attract the best company of Milan, 
and she was become one of the most noted figures 
of the capital. There had been some talk of offering 
her the chair of poetry at the Brera; but the report of 
her liberal views had deterred the faculty. Meanwhile 
the very fact that she represented the new school of 
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thought gave an added zest to her conversation in a 
society which made up for its mild servitude under the 
Austrian by much talk of liberalism and independence. 
The Signorina Vivaldi became the fashion. The literati 
celebrated her scholarship, the sonneteers her eloquence 
and beauty; and no foreigner on the grand tour was 
content to leave Milan without having beheld the fair 
prodigy and heard her recite Petrarch's Ode to Italy, 
or the latest elegy of Pindamonte. 

Odo scarce knew with what feelings he listened. He 
could not but acknowledge that such a life was better 
suited to one of Fulvia's gifts and ambitions than the 
humdrum existence of a Swiss town; yet his first sensa- 
tion was one of obscure jealousy, of reluctance to think 
of her as having definitely broken with the past. He 
had pictured her as adrift, like himself, on a dark sea 
of uncertainties; and to learn that she had found a safe 
anchorage was almost to feel himself deserted. 

The court was soon busy with preparations for the 
coming performtince. A celebrated actress from Venice 
was engaged to play the part of Virginia, and the re- 
hearsals went rapidly forward under the noble author's 
supervision. At last the great day arrived, and for the 
first time in the history of the little theatre, operetta 
and pastoral were replaced by the buskined Muse of 
tragedy. The court and all the nobility were present, 
and though it was no longer thought becoming for ec- 
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desiastics to visit the theatre, the easy-going Bishop 
appeared in a side-box in company with his chaplains 
and the Vicar-generaL 

The performance was brilliantly successful. Frantic 
applause greeted the tirades of the young Icilius. Every 
outburst against the abuse of privileges and the inso- 
lence of the patricians was acclaimed by ministers and 
courtiers, and the loudest in approval were the Mar- 
quess Fievepelago, the recognized representative of the 
clericals, the Marchioness of Boscofolto, whose harsh 
enforcement of her feudal rights was among the bit- 
terest grievances of the peasantry, €ind the good Bishop, 
who had lately roused himself from his habitual indo- 
lence to oppose the threatened annexation of the Caccia 
del Vescovo. One and all proclaimed their ardent sym- 
pathy with the proletariat, their scorn of tyranny and 
extortion in high places; and if the Marchioness, on 
her return home, ordered one of her linkmen flogged 
for having trod on her gown; if Pievepelago the next 
morning refused to give audience to a !poor devil of a 
pamphleteer that was come to ask his intercession with 
the Holy OiSce; if the Bishop at the same moment 
concluded the purchase of six able-bodied Turks from 
the galleys of his Serenity the Doge of Genoa — it is 
probable that, like the illustrious author of the drama, 
all were unconscious of any incongruity between their 
sentiments and actions. 

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As to Odo, seated in the state box, with Maria Clem- 
entina at his side, and the coiurt dignitaries grouped in 
the background, he had not listened to a dozen lines 
before all sense of his surroundings vanished and he be- 
came the passive instrument on which the poet played 
his mighty harmonies. All the incidental diiSculties of 
life, all the vacillations of an unsatisfied spirit, were 
consumed in that energizing emotion which seemed 
to leave every faculty stripped for action. Profounder 
meaning and more subtle music he had found in the 
great poets of the past; but here was an appeal to the 
immediate needs of the hour, uttered in notes as thrill- 
ing as a trumpet-call, and brought home to every sense 
by the vivid imagery of the stage. Once more he felt the 
old ardor of belief that Fulvia^s nearness had fanned in 
him. His convictions had flagged rather than his cour- 
age: now they started up as at her summons, and he 
heard the ring of her voice in every line. 

He left the theatre still vibrating with this new in- 
rush of life, and jealous of any interruption that should 
check it. The Duchesses birthday was being celebrated 
by illuminations and fireworks, and throngs of merry- 
makers filled the moonlit streets; but Odo, after ap- 
pearing for a moment at his wife^s side on the balcony 
above the public square, withdrew quietly to his own 
apartments. The casement of his closet stood wide, €ind 
he leaned against the window-frame, looking out on 
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the silent radiance of the gardens. As he stood there 
he saw two figures flit across the farther end of one of 
the long alleys. The moonlight surrendered them for a 
moment, the shade almost instantly reclaiming them — 
strayed revellers, doubtless, escaping from the lights 
and music of the Duchesses circle. 

A knock roused the Duke and he remembered that 
he had bidden Gamba wait on him after the perform- 
ance. He had been curious to hear what impression Al- 
fieri^s drama had produced upon the hunchback; but 
now any interruption seemed unwelcome and he turned 
to Gamba with a gesture of dismissal. 

The latter however remained on the threshold. 

** Yovu" Highness,^ he said, "the bookseller Andreoni 
craves the privilege of an audience." 

"Andreoni? At this hom*?'* 

"For reasons so urgent that he makes no doubt of 
jouT Highnesses consent; and to prove his good faith, 
and the need of presenting himself at so undue an hoiur, 
and in this private manner, he charged me to give this 
to yoiur Highness." 

He laid in the Duke^s hand a small object in black- 
ened silver, which on nearer inspection proved to be the 
ducal coat-of-arms. 

Odo stood gazing fixedly at this mysterious token, 
which seemed to come as an answer to his inmost 
thoughts. His heart beat high with confused hopes and 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

fears, and he could hardly control the voice in which he 
answered: ^*Bid Andreoni come to me.^ 



IV 

THE bookseller began by excusing himself for the 
liberty he had taken. He explained that the 
Signorina Fulvia Vivaldi, in whose behalf he came, was 
in urgent need of aid, and had begged him to wait on 
the Duke as soon as the coiurt had risen from the play. 

^^She is in Pianura, then?^ Odo exclaimed. 

^'Since yesterday, yoiu- Highness. Three days since 
she was ordered by the police to leave Milan within 
twenty-foiu* hours, and she came at once to Pianura, 
knowing that my wife and I would gladly receive her. 
But to-day we learned that the Holy OiSce was advised 
of her presence here, and of the reason of her banish- 
ment from Lombardy; and this fresh danger has forced 
her to implore yoiu- Highnesses protection.^ 

Andreoni went on to explain that the publication of 
her father'^s book was the immediate cause of Fulvia^s 
persecution. The Origin of Civilization, which had been 
printed some months previously in Amsterdam, had 
stirred Italy more profoimdly than any book since 
Beccaria'^s great work on Crime and Punishment. The 
author^s historical investigations were but a pretext for 
the development of his political theories, which were 
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set forth with singular daring and audacity, and sup- 
ported by all the arguments which his long study of 
the past commanded. The temperate and judicial tone 
which he had succeeded in preserving enhanced the 
effect of his arraignment of Church and state, and 
while his immense erudition commended his work to 
the learned, its directness of style gave it an immediate 
popularity with the general reader. It was an age when 
every book or pamphlet bearing on the great question 
of personal liberty was eagerly devoiu^ by an insati- 
able public ; and a few weeks after Vivaldi's volume had 
been smuggled into Italy it was the talk of every club 
and coffee-house from Calabria to Piedmont. The in- 
evitable result soon followed. The Holy Office got wind 
of the business, and the book was at once put on the 
Index. In Naples and Bologna it was publicly burned, 
and in Modena a professor of the University who was 
found to have a copy in his possession was fined and 
removed frt)m his chair. 

In Milan, where the strong liberal faction eunong the 
nobility, and the comparative leniency of the Austrian 
rule, permitted a more unrestrained discussion of politi- 
cal questions, the Origin of Civilization was received 
with open enthusiasm, and the story of the difiiculties 
that Fulvia had encountered in its publication made 
her the heroine of the moment. She had never concealed 
her devotion to her father''s doctrines, and in the first 
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glow of filial pride she may have yielded too openly to 
the desire to propagate them. Certain it is that she 
began to be looked on as having shared in the writing 
of the book, or as being at least an active exponent of 
its principles. Even in Lombardy it was not well to be 
too openly associated with the authorship of a con- 
demned book; and Fulvia was suddenly advised by the 
police that her presence in Milan was no longer accept- 
able to the government. 

The news excited great indignation among her friends, 
and Count Castiglione and several other gentlemen of 
rank hastened to intervene in her behalf; but the Gov- 
ernor declared himself unwilling to take issue with the 
Holy Office on a doctrinal point, and privately added 
that it would be well for the Signorina Vivaldi to with- 
draw from Lombardy before the clergy brought any 
direct charge against her. To ignore this hint would 
have been to risk not only her own safety but that of 
the gentlemen who had befriended her; and Fulvia at 
once set out for Fianura, the only place in Italy where 
she could count on friendship and protection. 

Andreoni and his wife would gladly have given her a 
home; but on learning that the Holy Ofiice was on her 
track, she had refused to compromise them by remain- 
ing under their roof, and had insisted that Andreoni 
should wait on the Duke and obtain a safe-conduct for 
her that very night. 

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Odo listened to this story with an agitation com- 
pounded of strangely contradictory sensations. To learn 
that Fulvia, at the very moment when he had pictured 
her as separated from him by the happiness and security 
of her life, was in reality a proscribed wanderer with 
none but himself to turn to, filled him with a confused 
sense of happiness; but the discovery that, in his own 
dominions, the political refugee was not safe from the 
threats of the Holy Office, excited a different emotion. 
All these considerations, however, were subordinate to 
the thought that he must see Fulvia at once. It was im- 
possible to summon her to the palace at that hoiu-, or 
even to secure her safety till morning, without compro- 
mising Andreoni by calling attention to the fact that a 
suspected person was under his roof; and for a moment 
Odo was at a loss how to detain her in Pianura without 
seeming to go counter to her wishes. 

Suddenly he remembered that Gamba was fertile in 
expedients, and calling in the hunchback, asked what 
plan he could devise. Gamba, after a moment^s reflec- 
tion, drew a key from his pocket. 

"May it please yoiu- Highness," he said, "this un- 
locks the door of the hunting-lodge at Pontesordo. The 
place has been deserted these many years, because of 
its bad name, and I have more than once found it a 
convenient shelter when I had reasons for wishing to 
be private. At this season there is no fear of poison 
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from the marshes, and if your Highness desires I will 
see that the lady finds her way there before sunrise.^ 



The sun had hardly risen the next morning when 
the Duke himself set forth. He rode alone, dressed like 
one of his own esquires, and gave the word unremarked 
to the sleepy sentinel at the gate. As it closed behind 
him and he set out down the long road that led to 
the chase, it seemed to him that the morning solitude 
was thronged with spectral memories. Melancholy and 
fanciful they flitted before him, now in the guise of 
Cerveno and Momola, now of Maria Clementina and 
himself. Every detail of the scene was interwoven with 
the fibres of early association, from the far-off years 
when, as a lonely child on the farm at Pontesordo, he 
had gazed across the marsh at the mysterious wood- 
lands of the chase, to the later day when, in the deserted 
hunting-lodge, the Duchess had flung her whip at the 
face in the Venice mirror. 

He pressed forward impatiently, and presently the 
lodge rose before him in its grassy solitude. The level 
sunbeams had not yet penetrated the surrounding 
palisade of boughs, and the house lay in a chill twi- 
light that seemed an emanation from its mouldering 
walls. As Odo approached, Gamba appeared frt)m the 
shadow and took his horse; and the next moment he 
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had pushed open the door, and stood in Fulvia^s pres- 
ence. 

She was seated at the farther end of the room, and 
as she rose to meet him it chanced that her head, 
enveloped in its black travelling-hood, was relieved for 
a moment against the tarnished backgromid of the 
broken mirror. The impression struck a chill to his 
heart; but it was replaced by a glow of boyish happi- 
ness as their eyes met and he felt her hands in his. 

For a moment all his thoughts were lost in the mere 
sense of her nearness. She seemed simply an enveloping 
atmosphere in which he drew firesh breath; but grad- 
ually her outline emerged from this haze of feeling, and 
he found himself looking at her with the wondering 
gaze of a stranger. She had been a girl of sixteen when 
they first met. Twelve years had passed since then, and 
she was now a woman of twenty-eight, belonging to a 
race in which beauty ripens early and as soon declines. 
But some happy property of nature — whether the rare 
mould of her features or the gift of the spirit that in- 
formed them — had held her loveliness intact, preserv- 
ing the clear lines of youth after its bloom was gone, 
and making her seem like a lover^s memory of herself. 
So she appeared at first, a bright imponderable pres- 
ence gliding toward him out of the past; but as her 
hands lay in his the warm current of life was renewed 
between them, and the woman dispossessed the shade. 
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UNPUBLISHED FRAGMENT 
From Me. Aethue Young's Dumf of his Travels 
in Italy in the Year 1789. 

OCTOBER 1st. Having agreed with a vetturmo to 
carry me to Fianura, set out this morning from 
Mantua. The country mostly arable, with rows of elm 
and maple pollard. Dined at Casal Maggiore, in an in- 
famous filthy inn. At dinner was joined by a gentleman 
who had taken the other seat in the vettura as far as 
Fianura. We engaged in conversation and I found him a 
man of lively intelligence and the most polished address. 
Though dressed in the foreign style, en ahbi, he spoke 
English with as much fluency as myself, and but for 
the philosophical tone of his remarks I had taken him 
for an ecclesiastic. Altogether a striking and somewhat 
perplexing character: able, keen, intelligent, evidently 
used to the best company, yet acquainted with the 
condition of the people, the methods of farming, and 
other economical subjects such as are seldom thought 
worthy of attention among Italians of quality. 

It appeared he was newly from France, where he had 
been as much struck as myself by the general state of 
ferment. Though owning that there was much reason 
for discontent, and that the conduct of the court and 
ministers was blind and infatuated beyond belief, he 
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yet declared himself gravely apprehensive of the future, 
saying that the people knew not what they wanted, 
and were unwilling to listen to those that might have 
proved their best advisers. Whether by this he meant 
the clergy I know not; though I observed he spoke 
fiivorably of that body in France, pointing out that, 
long before the recent agitations, they had defended 
the civil rights of the Third Estate, and citing many 
cases in which the country curates had shown them- 
selves the truest fiiends of the people: a fact my own 
observation hath confirmed. 

I remarked to him that I was surprised to find how 
little talk there was in Italy of the distracted condi- 
tions in France; and this though the country is overrun 
with Frendi refugees, or hnigrisy as they call them- 
selves, who bring with them reports that might well 
excite the alarm of neighboring governments. He said 
he had remarked the same indifierence, but that this 
was consonant with the Italian character, which never 
looked to the morrow; and he added that the mild dis- 
position of the people, and their profound respect for 
religion, were sufficient asstirance against any political 
excesses. 

To this I could not forbear replying that I could not 
regard as excesses the just protests of the poor against 
the unlawful tyranny of the privileged classes, nor for- 
bear to hail with joy the dawn of that light of free- 
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dom which hath already shed so sublime an efiiilgenoe 
on the wilds of the New World. The abate took this in 
good part, though I could see he was not wholly of my 
way of thinking; but he declared that in his opinion 
different races needed different laws, and that the sturdy 
and temperate American colonists were fitted to enjoy 
a greater measure of political freedom than the more 
volatile French and Italians — as though liberty were 
not destined by the Creator to be equally shared by 
all mankind!* 

In the afternoon through a poor country to Ponte di 
Po, a miserable village on the borders of the duchy, 
where we lay, not slept, in our clothes, at the worst inn 
I have yet encountered. Here our luggage was plumbed 
for Pianura. The impertinence of the petty sovereigns 
to travellers in Italy is often intolerable, and the cus- 
toms officers show the utmost insolence in the search for 
seditious pamphlets and other contraband articles; but 
here I was agreeably surprised by the courtesy of the 
ofiicials and the despatch with which our luggage was 
examined. On my remarking this, my companion re- 
plied that the Duke of Pianura was a man of liberal 
views, anxious to encourage foreigners to visit his state, 
and the last to put petty obstax^les in the way of travel. 

"^I let this passage stand, though the late unhappy 
events in France have, alas! proved that my friend the 
abate was nearer right than myself. June, 1794. 
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I answered, this was the report I had heard of him; and 
it was in the hope of learning something more of the 
reforms he was said to have effected, that I had turned 
aside to visit the duchy. My companion replied that his 
Highness had in fact introduced some innovations in 
the government; but that changes which seemed the 
most beneficial in one direction often worked mischief 
in another, so that the wisest ruler was perhaps not he 
that did the greatest amount of good, but he that was 
cause of the fewest evils. 

The 2d. From Ponte di Po to Pianura the most con- 
venient way is by water; but the river Plana being 
greatly swollen by the late rains, my friend, who seems 
well-acquainted with the country, proposed driving 
thither: a suggestion I readily accepted, as it gave me 
a good opportunity to study the roads and farms of the 
duchy. 

Crossing the Plana, drove near four hours over hor- 
rible roads across waste land, thinly wooded, without 
houses or cultivation. On my expressing surprise that 
the territoiy of so enlightened a prince should lie 
thus neglected, the abate said this land was a fief of 
the see of Pianura, and that the Duke was desirous of 
annexing it to the duchy. I asked if it were true that 
his Highness had given his people a constitution mod- 
elled on that of the Duke of Tuscany. He said he had 
heard the report; but that for his part he must deplore 
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any measure tending to debar the clergy from the pos- 
session of land. Seeing my surprise, he explained that, 
in Italy at least, the religious orders were far better 
landlords than the great nobles or the petty sovereigns, 
who, being for the most part absent from their estates, 
left their peasantry to be pillaged by rapacious middle- 
men and stewards: an argument I have heard advanced 
by other travellers, and have myself had fr^uent occa- 
sion to corroborate. 

On leaving the Bishop^s domain, remarked an im- 
provement in the roads. Flat land, well irrigated, and 
divided as usual into small holdings. The pernicious 
metayer system exists eveiywhere, but I am told the 
Duke is opposed to it, though it is upheld not only 
by the landed class, but by the numerous economists 
that write on agricultiu^ from their closets, but would 
doubtless be sorely puzzled to distinguish a beet-root 
fit)m a turnip. 

The 3d, Set out early to visit Pianiua. The city clean 
and well-kept. The Duke has introduced street-lamps, 
such as are used in Turin, and the pavement is remark- 
ably fair and even. Few beggars are to be seen and 
the people have a thriving look. Visited the Cathedral 
and Baptistery, in the Gothic style, more curious than 
beautiful; also the Dukes's picture-gallery. 

Learning that the Duchess was to ride out in the 
afternoon, had the curiosity to walk abroad to see her. 
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A good view of her as she left the palace. Though no 
longer m her first youth she is one of the handsomest 
women I have seen. Remarked a decided likeness to the 
Queen of France, though the eye and smile are less en- 
gaging. The people in the streets received her sullenly, 
and I am told her debts and disorders are the scandal 
of the town. She has, of course, her cicisbeo, and the 
Duke is the devoted slave of a learned lady, who is said 
to exert an unlimited influence over him, and to have 
done much to better the condition of the people. A 
new part for a princess mistress to play! 

In the evening to the theatre, a handsome building, 
well-lit with wax, where Cimarosa^s Due Baroni was 
agreeably sung. 

The 4th. My Lord Hervey, in Florence, having fa- 
vored me with a letter to Count Trescorre, the Duke^s 
prime-minister, I waited on that gentleman yesterday. 
His excellency received me politely and assiu^ed me that 
he knew me by reputation and would do all he could 
to put me in the way of investigating the agricultural 
conditions of the duchy. Contrary to the Italian cus- 
tom, he invited me to dine with him the next day. As 
a rule these great nobles do not open their doors to 
foreigners, however well recommended. 

Visited, by appointment, the press of the celebrated 
Andreoni, who was banished during the late Duke^s 
reign for suspected liberal tendencies, but is now re- 
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stored to feivor and placed at the head of the Royal 
Typography. Signor Andreoni received me with every 
mark of esteem, and after having shown me some of 
the finest examples of his work — such as the Pindar, 
the Lucretius and the Dante — accompanied me to a 
neighboring coifee-house, where I was introduced to 
several lovers of agriculture. Here I learned some par- 
ticulars of the Duke^s attempted reforms. He has under- 
taken the work of draining the vast marsh of Ponte- 
sordo, to the west of the city, notorious for its maX* aria; 
has renounced the monopoly of com and tobacco; has 
taken the University out of the hands of the Bamabites, 
and introduced the teaching of the physical sciences, 
formerly prohibited by the Church; has spent since his 
accession near S00,000 liv. on improving the roads 
throughout the duchy, and is now engaged in framing 
a constitution which shall deprive the clergy of the 
greater part of their privileges and confirm the sov- 
ereign's right to annex ecclesiastical territory for the 
benefit of the people. 

In spite of these radical measures, his Highness is 
not popular with the masses. He is accused of irreligion 
by the monks that he has removed from the University, 
and his mistress, the daughter of a noted free-thinker 
who was driven from Piedmont by the Inquisition, is 
said to have an unholy influence over him. I am told 
these rumors are diligently fomented by the late Duke's 
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minister, now Prior of the Dominican monastery, a man 
of bigoted views but great astuteness. The truth is, the 
people are so completely under the influence of the 
friars that a word is enough to turn them against their 
truest benefactors. 

In the afternoon I was setting out to visit the Bishop^s 
gallery when Count Trescorre's secretary waited on me 
with an invitation to inspect the estates of the Mar- 
chioness of Boscofolto: an ofler I readily accepted — for 
what are the masterpieces of Raphael or Cleomenes to 
the sight of a good turnip field or of a well-kept dairy? 

I had heard of Boscofolto, which was given by the 
late Duke to his mistress, as one of the most produc- 
tive estates of the duchy; but great was my disappoint- 
ment on beholding it. Fine gardens there are, to be 
sure, dipt walks, leaden statues, and water- works; but 
as for the farms, all is dirt, neglect, disorder. Spite of 
the lady^s wealth, all are let out aUa meta^ and farmed 
on principles that would disgrace a savage. The spade 
used instead of the plough, the hedges neglected, mole- 
casts in the pastures, good land run to waste, the 
peasants starving and indebted — where^ with a little 
thrift and humanity, all had been smiling plenty! 
Learned that on the owner^s death this great property 
reverts to the Bamabites. 

From Boscofolto to the church of the Madonna del 
Monte, where is one of their wonder-working images, 
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said to be annually visited by dose on thirty thousand 
pilgrims; but there is always some exaggeration in 
such figures. A fine building, richly adorned, and hung 
with an extraordinary number of votive ofierings: silver 
arms, legs, hearts, wax images, and paintings. Some 
of these latter are clearly the work of village artists, 
and depict the miraculous escape of the peasantry 
from various calamities, and the preservation of their 
crops from floods, drought, lightning and so forth. 
These poor wretches had done more to better their 
crops by spending their savings in good ploughshares 
and harrows than by hanging gew-gaws on a wooden 
idol. 

The Rector received us civilly and showed us the 
treasury, full of jewels and costly plate, and the build- 
ings where the pilgrims are lodged. Learned that the 
GiubUeo or centenary festival of the Madonna is shortly 
to be celebrated with great pomp. The poorer classes 
delight in these ceremonies, and I am told this is to 
surpass all previous ones, the clergy intending to work 
on the superstitions of the people and thus turn them 
against the new charter. It is said the Duke hopes to 
counteract these designs by ofiering a jewelled diadem 
to the Virgin; but this will no doubt do him a bad 
turn with the esprits libres. These little states are as fiill 
of intrigues as a foul fruit of maggots. 

TTie 6th. To dinner at Count Trescorre^ where, as 
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usual, I was the plainest-dressed man in the company. 
Have long since ceased to be concerned by this: why 
should a mere English farmer compete in elegance with 
these Monsignori and lUustrissimif Surprised to find 
among the company my travelling-companion of the 
other day. Learned that he is the abate de Crucis, a per- 
sonal friend of the Duke's. He greeted me cordially, and 
on hearing my name, said that he was acquainted with 
my works in the translation of Mons. Fr^ville, and now 
understood how it was that I had got the better of 
him in our farming disputations on the way hither. 

Was surprised to be told by Count Trescorre that 
the Duke desired me to wait on him that evening. 
Though in general not ambitious of such honors, yet 
in this case nothing could be more gratifying. 

The 6th. Yesterday evening to the palace, where his 
Highness received me with great afiability. He was in 
his private apartments, with the abate de Crucis and 
several other learned men; among them the fisimous 
abate Crescenti, librarian to his Highness and author of 
the celebrated Chronicles of the Italian States. Happy 
indeed is the prince who surrounds himself with scholars 
instead of courtiers ! Yet I cannot say that the impres- 
sion his Highness produced on me was one of happiness. 
His countenance is sad, almost careworn, though with 
a smile of engaging sweetness; his manner affable with- 
out condescension, and open without familiarity. I am 
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told he is oppressed by the cares of his station; and 
from a certain irresolution of voice and eye, that be- 
speaks not so much weakness as a speculative cast of 
mind, I can believe him less fitted for active govern- 
ment than for the meditations of the closet. He ap- 
pears, however, zealous to perform his duties; questioned 
me eagerly about my impressions of Italy, and showed 
a flattering familiarity with my works, and a desire to 
profit by what he was pleased to call my exceptional 
knowledge of agriculture. I thought I perceived in him 
a sincere wish to study the welfare of his people; but 
was disappointed to find among his chosen associates not 
one practical fanner or economist, but only the usual 
closet-theorists that are too busy planning Utopias to 
think of planting turnips. 

The 7th, Visited his Highness'^s estate at Valsecca. 
Here he has converted a handsome seat into a school 
of agriculture, tearing down an immense orangery to 
plant mulberries, and replacing costly gardens and 
statuary by well-tilled fieldis: a good example to his 
wealthy subjects. Unfortunately his bailifi^ is not what 
we should call a practical farmer; and many acres of 
valuable ground are given up to a botanic garden, 
where exotic plants are grown at great expense, and 
rather for curiosity than use: a common error of noble 
agriculturists. 

In the afternoon with the abate de Crucis to the 
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Benedictine monastery a league beyond the city. Here 
I saw the best farming in the duchy. The Prior received 
us politely and conversed with intelligence on di*ainage, 
crops and irrigation. I urged on him the cultivation of 
turnips and he appeared struck by my arguments. The 
tenants on this great estate appeared better housed and 
fed than any I have seen in Pianura. The monks have 
a school of agriculture, less pretentious but better-man- 
aged than the Duke^s. Some of them study physics and 
chemistry, and there are good chirurgeons among them, 
who care for the poor without pay. The aged and in- 
firm peasants are housed in a neat almshouse, and the 
sick nursed in a clean well-built lazaret. Altogether an 
agreeable picture of rural prosperity, though I had 
rather it had been the result oi free labor than of 
monastic bourUy, 

The 8th, By appointment, to the Duke^s Egeria. This 
lady, the Signorina F. V., having heard that I was in 
Pianura, had desired the Signor Andreoni to bring me 
to her. 

I had expected a female of the loud declamatory 
type: something of the Gorilla Olimpica order; but in 
this was agreeably disappointed. The Signorina V. is 
modestly lodged, lives in the frugal style of the middle 
class, and refuses to accept a title, though she is thus 
debarred from going to court. Were it not indiscreet to 
speculate on a lady's age, I should put hers at some- 
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what above thirty. Though without the Duchess's com- 
mauding elegance she has, I believe, more beauty of a 
quiet sort: a countenance at once soft and animated, 
agreeably tinged with melancholy, yet lit up by the 
incessant play of thought and emotion that succeed 
each other in her talk. Better conversation I never 
heard; and can heartily confirm the assurances of those 
who had told me that the lady was as agreeable in dis- 
coiurse as learned in the closet.* 

On entering, found a numerous company assembled 
to compliment my hostess on her recent appointment 
as doctor of the University. This is an honor not im- 
commonly conferred in Italy, where female learning, 
perhaps from its rarity, is highly esteemed; but I am 
told the ladies thus distinguished seldom speak in pub* 
lie, though their degree entitles them to a chair in the 
University. In the Signorina V.''s society I found the 
most advanced reformers of the duchy: among others 
Signor Gamba, the famous pamphleteer, author of 
a remarkable treatise on taxation, which had nearly 
cost him his liberty imder the late Duke's reign. He 
is a man of extreme views and sarcastic tongue, with 
an irritability of manner that is perhaps the result of 

* It has before now been observed that the free and 
volatile manners of foreign ladies tend to blind the English 
traveller to the inferiority of their physical charms. Note 
by a Female Friend of the Author. 

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bodily infirmities. His ideas, I am told, have much 
weight with the fair doctoress; and in the lampoons of 
the day the new constitution is said to be the offspring 
of their amours, and to have inherited its father^s de- 
formity. 

The company presently withdrawing, my hostess 
pressed me to remain. She was eager for news from 
France, spoke admiringly of the new constitution, and 
recited in a moving manner an Ode of her own compo- 
sition on the Fall of the Bastille. Though living so re- 
tired she makes no secret of her connection with the 
Duke; said he had told her of his conversation with 
me, and asked what I thought of his plan for draining 
the marsh of Pontesordo. On my attempting to reply 
to this in detail, I saw that, like some of the most ac- 
complished of her sex, she was impatient of minuticey 
and preferred general ideas to particular instances; but 
when the talk turned on the rights of the people I was 
struck by the energy and justice of her remarks, and by 
a tone of resolution and courage that made me say to 
myself: Here is the hand that rules the state. 

She questioned me earnestly about the state of affairs 
in France, begged me to lend her what pamphlets I 
could procure, and while making no secret of her re- 
publican sympathies, expressed herself with a modera- 
tion not always found in her sex. Of the clergy alone she 
appeared intolerant: a fact hardly to be wondered at, 
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considering the persecutions to which she and her father 
have been subjected. She detained me near two hours 
in such discourse, and on my taking leave asked with 
some show of feeling what I, as a practical economist, 
would advise the Duke to do for the benefit of his peo- 
ple; to which I replied, "Plant turnips, madam 1"^ and 
she laughed heartily, and said no doubt I was right. 
But I fear all the heads here are too full of fine theories 
to condescend to such simple improvements. . . 



VI 

FULVIA, in the twilight, sat awaiting the Duke. 
The room in which she sat looked out on a 
stone-flagged cloister enclosing a plot of groimd planted 
with yews; and at the farther end of this cloister a 
door communicated by a covered way with the ducal 
gardens. The house had formed a part of the con- 
vent of the Perpetual Adoration, which had been sold 
by the nuns when they moved to the new buildings the 
late Duke had given them. A portion had been torn 
down to make way for the Marquess of Cerveno's 
palace, and in the remaining fragment, a low build- 
ing wedged between high walls, Fulvia had foimd a 
lodging. Her whole dwelling consisted of the Abbesses 
parlor, in which she now sat, and the two or three ad- 
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joining cells. The tall presses in the parlor had been 
filled with her father^s books, and surmounted by his 
globes and other scientific instruments. But for this 
the apartment remained as unadorned as in her prede- 
cessor's day; and Fulvia, in her austere black gown, 
with a lawn kerchief folded over her breast, and the 
impowdered hair drawn back fix)m her pale face, might 
herself have passed for the head of a religious com- 
munity. 

She cultivated with almost morbid care this severity 
of dress and siuroundings. There were moments when 
she could hardly tolerate the pale autumnal beauty 
which her glass reflected, when even this phantom of 
youth and radiance became a stumbling-block to her 
spiritual pride. She was not ashamed of being the Duke 
of Pianura's mistress; but she had a horror of being 
thought like the mistresses of other princes. She loathed 
all that the position represented in men'*s minds; she 
had refused all that, according to the conventions of 
the day, it entitled her to claim: wealth, patronage, 
and the rank and estates which it was customary for 
the sovereign to confer. She had taken nothing from 
Odo but his love, and the little house in which he had 
lodged her. 

Three years had passed since Fulvia's flight to Pia- 
nura. From the moment when she and Odo had stood 
face to face again, it had been clear to him that he 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

could never give her up, to her that she could never 
leave him. Fate seemed to have thrown them together 
in derision of their long struggle, and both felt that 
lassitude of the will which is the reaction from vain 
endeavor. The discoveiy that he needed her, that the 
task for which he had given her up could after all 
not be accomplished without her, served to overcome 
her last resistance. If the end for which both strove 
could best be attained together — if he needed the 
aid of her imfaltering faith as much as she needed 
that of his wealth and power — why should any per- 
sonal scruple stand between them? Why should she 
who had given all else to the cause — ease, fortune, 
safety, and even the happiness that lay in her hand — 
hesitate to make the final sacrifice of a private ideal? 
According to the standards of her day there was no 
dishonor to a woman in being the mistress of a man 
whose rank forbade his marrying her: the dishonor lay 
in the conduct which had come to be associated with 
such relations. Under the old dispensation the influence 
of the princess mistress had stood for the last excesses 
of moral and political corruption; why might it not, 
under the new law, come to represent as imlimited a 
power for good? 

So love, the casuist, argued; and during those first 
months, when happiness seemed at last its own justifi- 
cation, Fulvia lived in every fibre. But always, even 
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then, she was on the defensive against that higher tri- 
bunal which her own conception of life had created. In 
spite of herself she was a child of the new era, of the 
universal reaction against the falseness and egotism of 
the old social code. A standard of conduct regulated by 
the needs of the race rather than by individual passion, 
a conception of each existence as a link in the great 
chain of human endeavor, had slowly shaped itself out 
of the wild theories and vague "codes'' of the eigh- 
teenth-century moralists; and with this sense of the 
sacramental nature of human ties, came a renewed 
reverence for moral and physical purity. 

Fulvia was of those who require that their lives shall 
be an affirmation of themselves; and the lack of inner 
harmony drove her to seek some outward expression of 
her ideals. She threw herself with renewed passion into 
the political struggle. The best, the only justification 
of her power, was to use it boldly, openly, for the good 
of the people. All the repressed forces of her nature 
were poured into this single channel. She had no desire 
to conceal her situation, to disguise her influence over 
Odo. She wished it rather to be so visible a factor in 
his relations with his people that she should come to be 
regarded as the ultimate pledge of his good faith. But, 
like all the casuistical virtues, t]^is position had the 
rigidity of something created to fit a special case; and 
the result was a fixity of vision, a tension of attitude, 
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which spread benumbingly over her whole nature. She 
was conscious of the change, yet dared not struggle 
against it, since to do so was to confess the weakness 
of her case. She had chosen to be regarded as a symbol 
rather than a woman, and there were moments when she 
felt as isolated from life as some marble allegory in its 
niche above the market-place. 

It was the desire to associate herself with the Duke^s 
public life that had induced her, after much hesitation, 
to accept the degree which the University had conferred 
on her. She had shared eagerly in the work of recon- 
structing the University, and had been the means of 
drawing to Pianura several teachers of distinction from 
Padua and Pavia. It was her dream to build up a seat 
of learning which should attract students from all parts 
of Italy; and though many young men of good family 
had withdrawn from the classes when the Bamabites 
were dispossessed, she was confident that these would 
soon be replaced by scholars from other states. She was 
resolved to identify herself openly with the educational 
reform which seemed to her one of the most important 
steps toward civic emancipation; and she had therefore 
acceded to the request of the faculty that, on receiving 
her degree, she should sustain a thesis before the Uni- 
versity. This ceremony was to take place a few days 
hence, on the Duke^s birthday; and, as the new charter 
was to be proclaimed on the same day, Fulvia had 
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chosen as the subject of her discourse the Constitution 
recently promulgated in France. 

She pushed aside the bundle of political pamphlets 
which she had been studjdng, and sat looking out at 
the strip of garden beyond the arches of the cloister. 
The narrow horizon bounded by convent walls symbol- 
ized fitly enough the life she had chosen to lead: a life 
of artificial restraints and renimciations, passive, con- 
ventual almost, in which even the central point of her 
love burned, now, with a calm devotional glow. 

The door in the cloister opened and the Duke crossed 
the garden. He walked slowly, with the listless step she 
had observed in him of late; and as he entered she saw 
that he looked pale and weary. 

"You have been at work again,^ she said. ** A cabinet- 
meeting.?^ 

"Yes,^ he answered, sinking into the Abbesses high 
carved chair. 

He glanced musingly about the dim room, in which 
the shadow of the cloister made an early dusk. Its at- 
mosphere of monastic calm, of which the significance did 
not escape him, fell soothingly on his spirit. It simpli- 
fied his relation to Fulvia by tacitly restricting it within 
the bounds of a tranquil tenderness. Any other setting 
would have seemed less in harmony with their fate. 

Better, perhaps, than Fulvia, he knew what ailed 
them both. Happiness had come to them, but it had 
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come too late; it had come tinged with disloyalty to 
their early ideals; it had come when delay and disillu- 
sionment had imperceptibly weakened the springs of 
passion. For it is the saddest thing about sorrow that 
it deadens the capacity for happiness; and to Fulvia 
and Odo the joy they had renounced had returned 
with an exile^s alien face. 

Seeing that he remained silent, she rose and lit the 
shaded lamp on the table. He watched her as she moved 
across the room. Her step had lost none of its flowing 
grace, of that harmonious impetus which years ago had 
drawn his boyish fancy in its wake. As she bent above 
the lamp, the circle of light threw her face into relief 
against the deepening shadows of the room. She had 
changed, indeed, but as those change in whom the 
springs of life are clear and abimdant: it was a develop- 
ment rather than a diminution. The old purity of out- 
line remained; and deep below the siuface, but still 
visible sometimes to his lessening insight, the old girl- 
ish spirit, radiant, tender and impetuous, stirred for a 
moment in her eyes. 

The lamplight fell on the pamphlets she had pushed 
aside. Odo picked one up. "What are these?'' he asked. 

"They were sent to me by the English traveller 
whom Andreoni brought here." 

He turned a few pages. ",The old stoiy," he said. 
"Do you never weary of it?" 
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^^An old storyP^ she exclaimed. ^^I thought it had 
been the newest in the world. Is it not being written, 
chapter by chapter, before our very eyes?** 

Odo laid the treatise aside. "Are you never afraid to 
turn the next page?^ he asked. 

"Afraid.? Afiuid of what.?'' 

"That it may be written in blood.** 

She uttered a quick exclamation; then her &ce har- 
dened, and she said in a low tone: "De Cruds has been 
with you.** 

He made the half-resigned, half-impatient gesture of 
the man who feels himself drawn into a familiar argu- 
ment from which there is no issue. 

"He left yesterday for Germany.** 

"He was here too long!** she said, with an uncon- 
trollable escape of bitterness. 

Odo sighed. "If you would but let me bring him to 
you, you would see that his influence over me is not 
what you think it.** 

She was silent a moment; then she said: "You are 
tired to-night. Let us not talk of these things.** 

"As you please,** he answered, with an air of relief; 
and she rose and went to the harpsichord. 

She played softly, with a veiled touch, gliding from 

one crepuscular melody to another, till the room was 

filled with drifts of sound that seemed like the voice of 

its own shadows. There had been times when he could 

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have yielded himself to this languid tide of music, let- 
ting it loosen the ties of thought till he floated out 
into the soothing dimness of sensation; but now the 
present held him. To Fulvia, too, he knew the music 
was but a forced interlude, a mechanical refuge from 
thought. She had deliberately narrowed their inter- 
course to one central idea; and it was her pimishment 
that silence had come to be merely an intensified ex- 
pression of this idea. 

When she turned to Odo she saw the same conscious- 
ness in his face. It was useless for them to talk of other 
things. With a pang of imreasoning r^ret she felt that 
she had become to him the embodiment of a single 
thought — a formula, rather than a woman. 

"Tell me what you have been doing,^ she said. 

The question was a relief. At once he began to speak 
of his work. All his thoughts, all his time, were given 
to the constitution which was to define the powers of 
Church and state. The difliculties increased as the work 
advanced; but the gravest difliculty was one of which 
he dared not tell her: his own growing distrust of the 
ideas for which he labored. He was too keenly aware 
of the difference in their mental operations. With 
Fulvia, ideas were either rejected or at once converted 
into principles; with himself, they remained stored in 
the mind, serving rather as commentaries on life than 
as incentives to action. This perpetual accessibility to 
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new impressions was a quality she could not under- 
stand, or could conceive of only as a weakness. Her 
own mind was like a garden in which nothing is ever 
transplanted. She allowed for no intermediate stages 
between error and dogma, for no shifting of the boimds 
of conviction; and this security gave her the singleness 
of purpose in which he found himself more and more 
deficient. 

Odo remembered that he had once thought her near- 
ness would dispel his hesitations. At first it had been 
so; but gradually the contact with her fixed enthusi- 
asms had set up within him an opposing sense of the 
claims she ignored. The element of dogmatism in her 
faith showed the discouraging sameness of the human 
mind. He perceived that to a spirit like Fulvia^s it 
might become possible to shed blood in the cause of 
tolerance. 

The rapid march of events in France had necessarily 
produced an opposite effect on minds so differently con- 
stituted. To Fulvia the year had been a year of victory, 
a glorious affirmation of her political creed. Step by step 
she had seen, as in some old allegorical painting, error 
fly before the shafts of truth. Where Odo beheld a con- 
flagration she saw a sunrise; and all that was bare and 
cold in her own life was warmed and transfigured by 
that ineffable brightness. 

She listened patiently while he enlarged on the diffi- 
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culties of the case. The constitution was firamed in all 
its details, but with its completion he felt more than 
ever doubtful of the wisdom of granting it. He would 
have welcomed any postponement that did not seem 
an admission of fear. He dreaded the inevitable break 
with the clergy, not so much because of the consequent 
danger to his own authority, as because he was in- 
creasingly conscious of the newness and clumsiness of 
the instrument with which he proposed to replace their 
tried and complex system. He mentioned to Fulvia the 
rumors of popular disaffection; but she swept them 
aside with a smile. 

"The people mistrust you,^ she said. "And what 
does that mean? That you have given your enemies 
time to work on their credulity. The longer you delay 
the more opposition you will encounter. Father Ignazio 
would rather destroy the state than let it be saved by 
any hand but his.^ 

Odo reflected. "Of all my enemies,^ he said, "Father 
Ignazio is the one I most respect, because he is the 
most sincere.'' 

"He is the most dangerous, then,'' she returned. **A 
fanatic is always more powerful than a knave.'' 

He was struck with her undiminished faith in the 

sufficiency of such generalizations. Did she really think 

that to solve such a problem it was only necessary to 

define it? The contact with her imfaltering assurance 

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would once have given him a momentaiy glow; but 
now it left him cold. 

She was speaking more m*gently. ^^Surely,^ she said, 
^the noblest use a man can make of his own freedom 
is to set others free. My father said it was the only 
justification of kingship.'" 

He glanced at her half-sadly. "Do you still fancy 
that kings are free? I am bound hand and foot."" 

"So was my father,^ she flashed back at him; "but 
he had the Promethean spirit."" 

She colored at her own quickness, but Odo took the 
thrust tranquilly. 

"Yes,^ he said, "your father had the Promethean 
spirit: I have not. The flesh that is daily torn from me 
does not grow again.^ 

"Your courage is as great as his,'' she exclaimed, her 
tenderness in arms. 

"No,'' he answered, "for his was hopeful." There was 
a pause, and then he began to speak of the day's work. 

All the afternoon he had been in consultation with 
Crescenti, whose vast historical knowledge was of ser- 
vice in determining many disputed points in the tenure 
of land. The librarian was in sympathy with any mea- 
sures tending to relieve the condition of the peasantry; 
yet he was almost as strongly opposed as Trescorre to 
any reproduction of the Tuscan constitution. 

"He is afraid!" broke from Fulvia. She admired and 
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respected Crescenti, yet she had never fully trusted him. 
The taint of ecclesiasticism was on him. 

Odo smiled. ^He has never been afraid of facing the 
charge of Jansenism,^ he replied. ^'AU his life he has 
stood in open opposition to the Church party.^ 

^^It is one thing to criticise their dogmas, another 
to attack their privileges. At such a time he is bound 
to remember that he is a priest — that he is one of 
them.*" 

"Yet, as you have often pointed out, it is to the 
clergy that France in great measure owes her release 
from feudalism.'" 

She smiled coldly. ** Prance would have won her cause 
without the clergy !^ 

"This is not France, then,^ he said with a sigh. After 
a moment he began again: "Can you not see that any 
reform which aims at reducing the power of the clergy 
must be more easily and successfully carried out if they 
can be induced to take part in it? That, in short, we 
need them at this moment as we have never needed 
them before? The example of France ought at least 
to show you that." 

"The example of France shows me that, to gain a 
point in such a struggle, any means must be used! In 
Fiance, as you say, the clergy were with the people — 
here they are against them. Where persuasion fSedls 
coercion must be used!" 

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Odo smiled faintly. "You might have borrowed that 
from their own armory,^ he said. 

She colored at the sarcasm. "Why not?* she retorted. 
"Let them have a taste of their own methods! They 
know the kind of pressure that makes men yield — 
when they feel it they will know what to do.^ 

He looked at her with astonishment. "This is Gamba^s 
tone,^ he said. "I have never heard you speak in this 
way before.*" 

She colored again; and now with a profound emotion. 
"Yes,^ she said, "it is Gamba^s tone. He and I speak 
for the same cause and with the same voice. We are of 
the people and we speak for the people. Who are your 
other counsellors.'^ Priests and noblemen! It is natural 
enough that they should wish to make their side of the 
question heard. Listen to them, if you will — conciliate 
them, if you can ! We need all the allies we can win. 
Only do not fancy they are really speaking for the 
people. Do not think it is the people^s voice you hear. 
The people do not ask you to weigh this claim against 
that, to look too curiously into the defects and merits 
of every clause in their charter. All they ask is that the 
charter should be given them!^ 

She spoke with the low-voiced passion that possessed 

her at such moments. All acrimony had vanished from 

her tone^ The expression of a great conviction had 

swept aside every personal animosity, and cleared the 

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sources of her deepest feeling. Odo felt the pressure of 
her emotion. He leaned to her and their hands met. 

"It shall be given them,^ he said. 

She lifted her face to his. It shone with a great light. 
Once before he had seen it so illumined, but with how 
different a brightness ! The remembrance stirred in him 
some old habit of the senses. He bent over and kissed 
her. 



VII 

IW TEVER before had Odo so keenly felt the differ- 
X^ ence between theoretical visions of liberty and 
their practical application. His deepest heart-searchings 
showed him as sincerely devoted as ever to the cause 
which had enlisted his youth. He still longed above all 
things to serve his fellows; but the conditions of such 
service were not what he had dreamed. How different a 
calling it had been in Saint Francises day, when hearts 
inflamed with the new sense of brotherhood had but to 
set forth on their simple mission of almsgiving and ad- 
monition! To love one^s neighbor had become a much 
more complex business, one that taxed the intelligence 
as much as the heart, and in the course of which 
feeling must be held in firm subjection to reason. He 
was discouraged by Fulvia^s inability to understand the 
change. Hers was the missionary spirit; and he could 
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not but reflect how much happier she would have been 
as a nun m a charitable order, a unit in some organized 
system of beneficence. 

He too would have been happier to serve than to 
command! But it is not given to the lovers of the Lady 
Poverty to choose their special rank in her household. 
Don Gervaso^s words came back to him with deepening 
significance, and he thought how truly the old chap- 
lain's prayer had been fulfilled. Honor and power had 
come to him, and they had abased him to the dust. 
The Humilitas of his fathers, woven, carved and painted 
on every side, piu^ued him with an ironical reminder 
of his impotence. 

Fulvia had not been mistaken in attributing his de- 
pression of spirit to de Crucis's visit. It was the first 
time that de Crucis had returned to Pianura since the 
new Duke's accession. Odo had welcomed him eagerly, 
had again pressed him to remain; but de Crucis was on 
his way to Grermany, bound on some business which 
could not be deferred. Odo, aware of the renewed ac- 
tivity of the Jesuits, supposed that this business was 
connected with the flight of the French refugees, many 
of whom were gone to Coblentz; but on this point the 
abate was silent. Of the state of affairs in France he 
spoke openly and despondently. The immoderate haste 
with which the reforms had been granted filled him 
with fears for the future. Odo knew that Crescenti 
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shared these fears, and the judgment of these two 
men, with whom he differed on fundamental principles, 
weighed with him far more than the opinions of the 
party he was supposed to represent. But he was in the 
case of many greater sovereigns of his day. He had set 
free the waters of reform, and the fiuil bark of his 
authority had been torn from its moorings and swept 
headlong into the central current. 

The next morning, to his surprise, the Duchess sent 
one of her gentlemen to ask an audience. Odo at once 
replied that he would wait on her Highness; and a few 
moments later he was ushered into his wife^s closet. 

She had just left her toilet, and was still in the morn- 
ing n^glig^e worn during that prolonged and public 
ceremonial. Freshly perfumed and powdered, her eyes 
bright, her lips set in a nervous smile, she curiously re- 
called the arrogant child who had snatched her spaniel 
away from him years ago in that same room. And was 
she not that child, after all? Had she ever grown be- 
yond the imperious instincts of her youth? It seemed to 
him now that he had judged her harshly in the first 
months of their marriage. He had felt a momentary 
impatience when he had tried to force her roving im- 
pulses into the line of his own endeavor: it was easier 
to view her leniently now that she had almost passed 
out of his life. 

He wondered why she had sent for him. Some dis- 
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pute with her household, doubtless; a quarrel with a 
servant, even — or perhaps some sordid difficulty with 
her creditors. But she began in a new key. 

"Your Highness,'' she said, "is not given to taking 
my advice." 

Odo looked at her in surprise. "The opportunity is 
not often accorded me,"** he replied with a smile. 

Maria Clementina made an impatient gesture; then her 
face softened. Contradictory emotions flitted over it like 
the reflections cast by a hurrying sky. She came close 
to him and then drew away and seated herself in the 
high-backed chair where she had throned when he first 
saw her. Suddenly she blushed and began to speak. 

"Once," she said in a low, almost inaudible voice, "I 
was able to give your Highness warning of an impend- 
ing danger — " She paused and her eyes rested full on 
Odo. 

He felt his color rise as he returned her gaze. It was 
her first allusion to the past. He had supposed she had 
forgotten. For a moment he remained awkwardly silent. 

"Do you remember?" she asked. 

*^I remember." 

**The danger was a grave one. Your Highness may 
recall that but for my warning you would not have 
been advised of it." 

"I remember," he said again. 

She paused a moment. "The danger," she repeated, 
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^was a grave one; but it threatened only your High- 
ness'^s person. Your Highness listened to me then; will 
you listen again if I advise you of a greater — a peril 
threatening not only your person but your throne?** 

Odo smiled. He could guess now what was com- 
ing. She had been drilled to act as the mouthpiece 
of the opposition. He composed his features and said 
quietly: ^ These are grave words, madam. I know of no 
such peril — but I am always ready to listen to your 
Highness.** 

His smile had betrayed him, and a quick flame of 
anger passed over her face. 

"VSThy should you listen to me, since you never heed 
what I say?** 

^^Your Highness has just reminded me that I did so 
once — ** 

"Once!** she repeated bitterly. "You were younger 
then — and so was I!** She glanced at herself in the 
mirror with a dissatisfied laugh. Something in her look 
and movement touched the springs of compassion. 

"Try me again,** he said gently. "If I am older, per- 
haps I am also wiser, and therefore even more willing to 
be guided.** 

"Oh,** she caught him up with a sneer, "you are 

willing enough to be guided — we all know that." She 

broke off, as though she felt her mistake and wished 

to make a fresh beginning. Again her face was full of 

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fluctuating meaning; and he saw, beneath its shallow 
surface, the eddy of incoherent impulses. When she 
spoke, it was with a noble gravity. 

"Your Highness,^ she said, "does not take me into 
your counsels; but it is no secret at court and in the 
town that you have in contemplation a grave political 
measure.** 

"I have made no secret of it,** he replied. 

"No — or I should be the last to know it!** she ex- 
claimed, with one of her sudden lapses into petulance. 

Odo made no reply. Her futility was beginning to 
weary him. She saw it and again attempted an imper- 
sonal dignity of manner. 

"It has been your Highnesses choice," she said, "to 
exclude me from public affairs. Perhaps I was not fitted 
by education or intelligence to share in the cares of 
government. Your Highness will at least bear witness 
that I have scrupulously respected your decision, and 
have never attempted to intrude upon your counsels.*' 

Odo bowed. It would have been useless to remind her 
that he had sought her help and failed to obtain it. 

"I have accepted my position,** she continued. "I 
have led the life to which it has pleased your Highness 
to restrict me. But I have not been able to detach my 
heart as well as my thoughts from your Highness*s in- 
terests. I have not learned to be indifferent to your 
danger,** 

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Odo looked up quickly. She ceased to interest him 
when she spoke by the book, and he was impatient to 
make an end. 

"You spoke of danger before,'* he said. "What 
danger?'' 

"That of forcing on your subjects liberties which 
they do not desire!" 

"Ah," said he thoughtfully. That was all, then. 
What a poor tool she made! He marvelled that, in 
all these years, Trescorre's skilful hands should not 
have fashioned her to better purpose. 

"Your Highness," he said, "has reminded me that 
since our marriage you had lived withdrawn fix>m pub- 
lic affairs. I will not pause to dispute by whose choice 
this has been; I will in turn merely remind your High- 
ness that such a life does not afford much opportunity 
of gauging public opinion." 

In spite of himself a note of sarcasm had again crept 
into his voice; but to his smrprise she did not seem to 
resent it. 

"Ah," she exclaimed, with more feeling than she had 
hitherto shown, "you fancy that because I am kept in 
ignorance of what you think I am ignorant also of what 
others think of you ! Believe me," she said, with a flash 
of insight that startled him, "I know more of you than 
if we stood closer. But you mistake my purpose. I have 
not sent for you to force my counsels on you. I have no 
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desire to appear ridiculous. I do not ask you to hear 
what / think of your course, but what others think 
of it'' 

"What others?'* 

The question did not disconcert her. "Your sub- 
jects," she said quickly. 

"My subjects are of many classes." 

''All are of one class in resenting this charter. I am 
told you intend to proclaim it within a few days. I en- 
treat you at least to delay, to reconsider your coimse. 
Oh, believe me when I say you are in danger! Of what 
use to offer a crown to our Lady, when you have it in 
your heart to slight her servants? But I will not speak 
of the clergy, since you despise them — nor of the 
nobles, since you ignore their claims. I will speak only 
of the people — the people, in whose interest you pro- 
fess to act. Believe me, in striking at the Church you 
woimd the poor. It is not their bodily welfare I mean 
— though Heaven knows how many sources of bounty 
must now run dry! It is their faith you insult. First 
you turn them against their masters, then against their 
God. They may acclaim you for it now---but I teU you 
they will hate you for it in the end !" 

She paused, flushed with the vehemence of her argu- 
ment, and eager to press it farther. But her last words 
had touched an unexpected fibre in Odo. He looked at 
her with his imseeing visionary gaze. 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

"The end?'' he murmured. "Who knows what the 
end will be?'' 

"Do you still need to be told?" she exclaimed. 
"Must you always come to me to learn that you are 
in danger?" 

"If the state is in danger the danger must be faced. 
The state exists for the people; if they do not need it, 
it has ceased to serve its purpose." 

She clasped her hands in an ecstasy of wonder. 
"Oh, fool, madman — but it is not of the state I 
speak! It is you who are in danger — you — you — 
you — " 

He raised his head with an impatient gesture. 

"I?" he said. "I had thought you meant a graver 
peril." 

She looked at him in silence. Her pride met his and 
thrilled with it; and for a moment the two were one. 

"Odo!" she cried. She sank into a chair, and he went 
to her and took her hand. 

"Such fears are worthy neither of us," he said gravely. 

"I am not ashamed of them," she said. Her hand 
climg to him and she lifted her eyes to his face. "You 
will listen to me?" she whispered in a glow. 

He drew back chilled. If only she had kept the femi- 
nine in abeyance ! But sex was her only weapon. 

"I have listened," he said quietly. "And I thank you." 

"But you will not be counselled?" 
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THE REWARD 

"In the last issue one must be one's own counsellor." 

Her face flamed. **If you were but that!" she tossed 
back at him. 

The taunt struck him full. He knew that he should 
have let it lie; but he caught it up in spite of himself. 

^^Madam!" he said. 

^^I should have appealed to our sovereign, not to her 
servant!" she cried, dashing into the breach she had 
made. 

He stood motionless, stunned almost. For what she 
had said was true. He was no longer the sovereign: the 
rule had passed out of his hands. 

His silence frightened her. With an instinctive jeal- 
ousy she saw that her words had started a train of 
thought in which she had no part. She felt herself 
ignored, abandoned; and all her passions rushed to the 
defence of her wounded vanity. 

"Oh, believe me," she cried, "I speak as your Duch- 
ess, not as yoiu* wife. That is a name in which I should 
never dream of appealing to you. I have ever stood 
apart from your private pleasures, as became a woman 
of my house." She faced him with a flash of the Aus- 
trian insolence. "But when I see the state drifting to 
ruin as the result of your caprice, when I see your own 
life endangered, your people turned against you, reli- 
gion openly insulted, law and authority made the play- 
thing of this — this — false atheistical creature, that has 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

robbed me — robbed m6 of all — ^ She broke off help- 
lessly and hid her tsuce with a sob. 

Odo stood speechless, spell-bound. He could not mis- 
take what had happened. The woman had surged to 
the surface at last — the real woman, passionate, self- 
centred, imdisciplined, but so piteous, after all, in this 
sudden subjection to the one tenderness that survived 
in her. She loved him and was jealous of her rival. 
That was the instinct which had swept all others aside. 
At that moment she cared nothing for her own safety 
or his. The state might perish if they but fell together. 
It was the distance between them that maddened her. 

The tragic simplicity of the revelation left Odo 
silent. For a fantastic moment he yielded to the vision 
of what that waste power might have accomplished. 
Life seemed to him a confusion of roving forces that 
met only to crash in ruins. 

His silence drew her to her feet. She repossessed her- 
self, throbbing but valiant. 

"My fears for your Highnesses safety have led my 
speech astray. I have given your Highness the wammg 
it was my duty to give. Beyond that I had no thought 
of trespassing.*" 

And still Odo was silent. A dozen answers struggled 

to his lips; but they were checked by the stealing sense 

of duality that so often paralyzed his action. He had 

recovered his lucidity of vision, and his impulses &ded 

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THE REWARD 

before it like mist. He saw life again as it was, an in- 
complete and shabby business, a patchwork of torn and 
ravelled effort. Everywhere the shears of Atropos were 
busy, and never could the cut threads be joined again. 

He took his wife^s hand and bent over it ceremo- 
niously. It lay in his like a stone. 

VIII 

THE jubilee of the Moimtain Madonna fell on the 
feast of the Purification. It was mid-November, 
but with a sky of June. The autumn rains had ceased 
for the moment, and fields and orchards glistened with 
a late verdure. 

Never had the faithful gathered in such numbers to 
do honor to the wonder-working Virgin. A widespread 
resistance to the influences of free thought and Jan- 
senism was pouring fresh life into the old formulas of 
devotion. Though many motives combined to strengthen 
this movement, it was still mainly a simple expression 
of loyalty to old ideals, an instinctive rallying around a 
threatened cause. It is the honest conviction underly- 
ing all great popular impulses that gives them their 
real strength; and in this case the thousands of pilgrims 
flocking on foot to the mountain shrine embodied a 
greater moral force than the powerftd ecclesiastics at 
whose call they had gathered. 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

The dei^gy themselves were come fix)m all sides; 
while those that were imable to attend had sent costly 
gifts to the miraculous Virgin. The Bishops of Mantua, 
Modena, Vercelli and Cremona had travelled to Pianura 
in state, the people flocking out beyond the gates to wel- 
come them. Four mitred Abbots, several Monsignori, 
and Priors, Rectors, Vicars-general and canons innumer- 
able rode in the procession, followed on foot by the 
humble army of parish priests and by interminable con- 
fraternities of all orders. 

The approach of the great dignitaries was hailed with 
enthusiasm by the crowds lining the roads. Even the 
Bishop of Pianura, never popular with the people, re- 
ceived an imwonted measiure of applause, and the white- 
cowled Prior of the Dominicans, riding by stem and 
close-lipped as a monk of Zurbaran^s, was greeted with 
frenzied acclamations. The report that the Bishop and 
the heads of the religious houses in Pianura were to set 
free suppers for the pilgrims had doubtless quickened 
this outbiu^t of piety; yet it was perhaps chiefly due 
to the sense of coming peril that had gradually per- 
meated the dim consciousness of the crowd. 

In the church, the glow of lights, the thrilling beauty 
of the music and the glitter of the priestly vestments 
were blent in a melting harmony of soimd and color. 
The shrine of the Madonna shone with 'imearthly radi- 
ance. Hundreds of candles formed an elongated nimbus 
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THE REWARD 

about her hieratic figure, which was surmounted by the 
canopy of cloth-of-gold presented by the Duke of Mo- 
dena. The Bishops of VercelU and Cremona had offered 
a robe of silver brocade studded with coral and tur- 
quoises, the devout Princess Clotilda of Savoy an em- 
erald necklace, the Bishop of Pianura a marvellous veil 
of rose-point made in a Flemish convent; while on the 
statue^s brow rested the Duke^s jewelled diadem. 

The Duke himself, seated in his tribime above the 
choir, observed the scene with a renewed appreciation 
of the Churches unfailing dramatic instinct. At first he 
saw in the spectacle only this outer and symbolic side, 
of which the mere sensuous beauty had always deeply 
moved him; but as he watched the efiect produced on 
the great throng filling the aisles, he began to see that 
this external splendor was but the veil before the 
sanctuary, and to realize what de Crucis meant when 
he spoke of the deep hold of the Church upon the peo- 
ple. Every color, every gesture, every word and note of 
music that made up the texture of the gorgeous cere- 
monial might indeed seem part of a long-studied and 
astutely-planned effect. Yet each had its root in some 
instinct of the heart, some natural development of the 
inner life, so that they were in fact not the cunningly- 
adjusted fragments of an arbitrary pattern but the 
inseparable fibres of a living organism. It was Odo'? 
misfortune to see too far ahead on the road along 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

which his destiny was mging him. As he sat there, 
face to face with the people he was trying to lead, he 
heard above the music of the mass and the chant of 
the kneeling throng an echo of the question that Don 
Gervaso had once put to him: — "If you take Christ 
fiom the people, what have you to give them instead?*** 

He was roused by a burst of silver darions. The mass 
was over, and the Duke and Duchess were to descend 
fix)m their tribune and venerate the holy image before 
it was carried through the church. 

Odo rose and gave his hand to his wife. They had 
not seen each other, save in public, since their last con- 
versation in her closet. The Duchess walked with set 
lips and head erect, keeping her profile turned to him 
as they descended the steps and advanced to the choir. 
None knew better how to take her part in such a pa- 
geant. She had the gift of drawing upon herself the 
undivided attention of any assemblage in which she 
moved; and the consciousness of this power lent a kind 
of Oljnnpian buoyancy to her gait The richness of her 
dress and her extravagant display of jewels seemed al- 
most a challenge to the sacred image blazing like a 
rainbow beneath its golden canopy; and Odo smiled to 
think that his childish fancy had once compared the 
brilliant being at his side to the humble tinsel-decked 
Virgin of the church at Pontesordo. 

As the couple advanced, stillness fell on the church. 
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The air was full of the lingering haze of incense, 
through which the sunlight from the clerestory poiued 
in prismatic splendors on the statue of the Virgin. 
Rigid, superhuman, a molten flamboyancy of gold and 
gems, the wonder-working Madonna shone out above 
her worshippers. The Duke and Duchess paused, bow- 
ing deeply, below the choir. Then they mounted the 
steps and knelt before the shrine. As they did so a 
crash broke the silence, and the startled devotees saw 
that the ducal diadem had fisJlen from the Madonna^s 
head. 

The hush prolonged itself a moment; then a canon 
sprang forward to pick up the crown, and with the 
movement a murmur rose and spread through the 
church. The Duke^s offering had fisJlen to the ground 
as he approached to venerate the blessed image. That 
this was an omen no man could doubt. It needed no 
augur to interpret it. The miumur, gathering force as 
it swept through the packed aisles, passed from surprise 
to fear, from fear to a deep hum of anger; — for the 
people understood, as plainly as though she had spoken, 
that the Virgin of the Valseccas had cast from her the 
gift of an imbeliever. . . 

The ceremonies over, the long procession was formed 
again and set out toward the city. The crowd had 
surged ahead, and when the Duke rode through the 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

gates the streets were already thronged. Moving slowly 
between the compact mass of people he felt himself as 
closely observed as on the day of his state entry; but 
with far different effect. Enthusiasm had given way to 
a cold curiosity. The excitement of the spectators had 
spent itself in the morning, and the sight of their sov- 
ereign failed to rouse their flagging ardor. Now and 
then a cheer broke out, but it died again without kin- 
dling another in the uninflammable mass. Odo could-not 
tell how much of this indifference was due to a natural 
reaction fix>m the emotions of the morning, how much 
to his personal unpopularity, how much to the ominous 
impression produced by the falling of the Virgin's crown. 
He rode between his people oppressed by a sense of es- 
trangement such as he had never known. He felt him- 
self shut off fix)m them by an impassable barrier of 
superstition and ignorance; and every effort to reach 
them was like the wrong turn in a labjrrinth, draw- 
ing him farther from the issue to which it seemed to 
lead. 

As he advanced imder this indifferent or hostile 
scrutiny, he thought how much easier it would be to 
face a rain of bullets than this withering glare of criti- 
cism. A sudden longing to escape, to be done with it 
all, came over him with sickening force. His nerves 
ached with the physical strain of holding himself up- 
right on his horse, of preserving the statuesque erect- 
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THE REWARD 

ness proper to the occasion. He felt like one of his own 
ancestral effigies, of which the wooden framework had 
rotted under the splendid robes. A congestion at the 
head of a narrow street had checked the procession, and 
he was obliged to rein in his horse. He looked about 
and found himself in the centre of the square near the 
Baptistery. A few feet off, directly in line with him, was 
the weather-worn front of the Royal Printing-Press. He 
raised his head and saw a group of people on the bal- 
cony. Though they were close at hand, he saw them in 
a blur, against which Fulvia^s figure suddenly detached 
itself. She had told him that she was to view the pro- 
cession with the Andreonis; but through the mental 
haze which enveloped him her apparition struck a vague 
surprise. He looked at her intently, and their eyes met. 
A faint happiness stole over her face, but no recogni- 
tion was possible, and she continued to gaze out steadily 
upon the throng below the balcony. Involuntarily his 
glance followed hers, and he saw that she was herself 
the centre of the crowd'^s attention. Her plain, almost 
Quakerish habit, and the tranquil dignity of her car- 
riage, made her a conspicuous figure among the ani- 
mated groups in the adjoining windows, and Odo, with 
the acuteness of perception which a public life develops, 
was instantly aware that her name was on every lip. At 
the same moment he saw a woman close to his horse^s 
feet snatch up her child and make the sign against the 
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evil eye. A boy who stood staring open-mouthed at 
Fulvia caught the gesture and repeated it; a barefoot 
friar imitated the boy, and it seemed to Odo that the 
familiar sign was spreading with malignant rapidity to 
the £Euihest limits of the crowd. The impression was 
only momentary; for the cavalcade was again in mo- 
tion, and without raising his eyes he rode on, sick at 
heart • • 

At nightfall a man opened the gate of the ducal 
gardens below the Chinese pavilion and stepped out 
into the deserted lane. He locked the gate and slipped 
the key into his pocket; then he turned and walked 
toward the centre of the town. As he reached the more 
populous quarters his walk slackened to a stroll; and 
now and then he paused to observe a knot of merry- 
makers or look through the curtains of the tents set 
up in the squares. 

The man was plainly but decently dressed, like a petty 
tradesman or a lawyer^s clerk, and the night being chill 
he wore a cloak, and had drawn his hat-brim over his 
forehead. He sauntered on, letting the crowd carry him, 
with the air of one who has an hour to kill, and whose 
holiday-making takes the form of an amused spectator- 
ship. To such an observer the streets offered ample en- 
tertainment. The shrewd air discouraged lounging and 
kept the crowd in motion; but the open platforms built 
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for dancing were thronged with couples, and every peep« 
show, wine-shop and astrologer^s booth was packed to 
the doors. The shrines and street-lamps being all alight, 
and booths and platforms hung with countless lanterns, 
the scene was as bright as day; but in the ever-shifting 
medley of peasant-dresses, liveries, monkish cowls and 
carnival disguises, a soberly-clad man might easily go 
unremarked. 

Reaching the square before the Cathedral, the solitary 
observer pushed his way through the idlers gathered 
about a dais with a curtain at the back. Before the 
curtain stood a Milanese quack, dressed like a noble 
gentleman, with sword and plumed hat, and rehears- 
ing his cures in stentorian tones, while his zany, in the 
short mask and green-and-white habit of Brighella, 
cracked jokes and turned hand-springs for the diversion 
of the vulgar. 

"Behold,'' the charlatan was shouting, "the marvel- 
lous Egyptian love-philter distilled fix>m the pearl that 
the great Emperor Antony dropped into Queen Cleo- 
patra's cup. This infallible fluid, handed down for 
generations in the family of my ancestor, the High 
Priest of Isis — " The bray of a neighboring show- 
man's trumpet cut him short, and yielding to circum- 
stances he drew back the curtain, and a tumbling-girl 
sprang out and began her antics on the front of the 
stage. 

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"What did he say was the price of that drink, 
Giannina?^ asked a young maid-servant pulling her 
neighbor's sleeve. 

**Are you thinking of buying it for Pietrino, my 
beauty?'' the other returned with a laugh. "Believe me, 
it is a sound proverb that says: When thejryit is ripe 
itfaUaofUselfr 

The girl drew away angrily, and the quack took up 
his harangue: — "The same philter, ladies and gentle- 
men — though in confessing it I betray a professional 
secret — the same philter, I declare to you on the honor 
of a nobleman, whereby, in your own city, a lady no 
longer young and no way remarkable in looks or sta- 
tion, has captured and subjugated the affections of one 
so high, so exalted, so above all others in beauty, rank, 
wealth, power and dignities — " 

"Oh, oh, that's the Duke!" sniggered a voice in the 
crowd. 

"Ladies and gentlemen, I name no names!" cried the 
quack impressively. 

"You don't need to," retorted the voice. 

"They do say, though, she gave him something to 
drink," said a young woman to a youth in a clerk's 
dress. "The saying is she studied medicine with the 
Turks." 

"The Moors, you mean," said the derk with an air 
of superiority. 

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"Well, they say her mother was a Turkey slave and 
her father a murderer fix>m the Sultanas galleys.^ 

"No, no, she's plain Piedmontese, I tell you. Her fa- 
ther was a physician in Turin, and was driven out of 
the country for poisoning his patients in order to watch 
their death-agonies.'*' 

"They say she 's good to the poor, though,'' said an- 
other voice doubtfully. 

**Grood to the poor? Ay^ that 's what they said of her 
father. All I know is that she heard Stefano the weaver's 
lad had the falling sickness, and she carried him a po> 
tion with her own hands, and the next day the child 
was dead, and a Carmelite friar, who saw the phial he 
drank from, said it was the same shape and size as one 
that was found in a witch's grave when they were dig- 
ging the foundations for the new monastery." 

"Ladies and gentlemen," shrieked the quack, "what 
am I offered for a drop of this priceless liquor?" 

The listener turned aside and pushed his way toward 
the farther end of the square. As he did so he ran 
against a merry-andrew who thrust a long printed sheet 
in his hand. 

"Buy my satirical ballads, ladies and gentlemen!" the 
fellow shouted. "Two for a farthing, invented and writ- 
ten by an own cousin of the great Pasquino of Rome! 
What will you have, sir? Here's the secret history of 
a famous Prince's amours with an atheist — here's the 
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true scandal of an illustrious lady^s necklace — two for 
a farthing . . • and my humblest thanks to your excel- 
lency.*" He pocketed the coin, and the other, thrusting 
the broadsheets beneath his doak, pushed on to the 
nearest coffee-house. 

Here every table was thronged, and the babble of 
talk so loud that the stranger, hopeless of obtaining 
refreshment, pressed his way into the remotest comer 
of the room and seated himself on an empty cask. At 
first he sat motionless, silently observing the crowd; 
then he drew forth the ballads and ran his eye over 
them. He was still engaged in this study when his no- 
tice was attracted by a loud discussion going forward 
between a party of men at the nearest table. The dis- 
putants, petty tradesmen or artisans by their dress, had 
evidently been warmed by a good flagon of wine, and 
their tones were so lively that every word reached the 
listener on the cask. 

^^Reform, reform!^ cried one, who appeared by his 
dress and manner to be the weightiest of the company 
— "it's all very well to cry reform; but what I say is that 
most of those that are howling for it no more know 
what they're asking than a parrot that's been taught 
the litany. Now the first question is: who benefits by 
your reform? And what's the answer to that, eh? Is 
it the tradesmen? The merchants? The clerks, artisans, 
household servants, I ask you? I hear some of my fel* 
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low-tradesmen complaining that the nobility don't pay 
their bills. Will they be better pay, think you, when 
the Duke has halved their revenues? Will the quality 
keep up as large households, employ as many lacqueys, 
set as lavish tables, wear as fine clothes, collect as many 
rarities, buy as many horses, give us, in short, as many 
opportunities of making oiur profit out of their plea- 
sure? What I say is, if weVe to have new taxes, don't 
let them fiill on the very class we live by!'' 

^That's true enough," said another speaker, a lean 
bilious man with a pen behind his ear. ^^The peasantry 
are the only dass that are going to profit by this con- 
stitution." 

^^ And what do the peasantry do for us, I should like 
to know?" the first speaker went on triumphantly. ^^As 
far as the fat friars go, I'm not sorry to see them 
squeezed a trifle, for they Ve wrung enough money out 
of our women-folk to lie between feathers from now till 
doomsday; but I say, if you care for your pockets, don't 
lay hands on the nobility!" 

"Gently, gently, my friend," exclaimed a cautious 
flaccid-looking man setting down his glass. ^* Father and 
son, for four generations, my family have served Pia- 
nura with Church candles, and I can tell you that since 
these new atheistical notions came in the nobility are 
not the good patrons they used to be. But as for the 
friars^ I should be sorry to see them w^dled with. It's 
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true they may get the best morsel m the pot and the 
warmest seat on the hearth — and one of them, now 
and then, may take too long to teach a pretty girl her 
Pater Noster — but I ^m not so sure we shall be better 
off when they ^re gone. Formerly, if a child too many 
came to poor folk they could always comfort themselves 
with the thought that, if there was no room for him at 
home, the Church was there to provide for him. But if 
we drive out the good friars, a man will have to count 
mouths before he dares look at his wife too lovingly.^ 

"Well,^ said the scribe with a dry smile, **IVe a 
notion the good friars have always taken more than 
they gave; and if it were not for the gaping mouths 
under the cowl even a poor man might have victuals 
enough for his own.'' 

The first speaker turned on him contentiously. 

"Do I understand you are for this new charter, then?** 
he asked. 

**No, no,'' said the other. ** Better hot polenta than a 
cold ortolan. Things are none too good as they are, but 
I never care to taste first of a new dish. And in this case 
I don't fancy the cook." 

"Ah, that's it," said the soft man. "It's too much 
like the apothecary's wife mixing his drugs for him. 
Men of Roman lineage want no women to govern 
them!" He puffed himself out and thrust a hand in 
his bosom, "Besides, gentlemen," he added, dropping 
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his voice and glancing cautiously about the room, ^Hhe 
saints are my witness I ^m not superstitious — but frankly, 
now, I don't much fancy this business of the Virgin's 
crown."" 

"What do you mean?'' asked a lean visionary-look- 
ing youth who had been drinking and listening. 

^* Why, sir, I need n't say I 'm the last man in Pianura 
to listen to women's tattle; but my wife had it straight 
from Cino the barber, whose sister is portress of the 
Benedictines, that, two days since, one of the nuns 
foretold the whole business, precisely as it happened — 
and what 's more, many that were in the Church this 
morning will tell you that they distinctly saw the blessed 
image raise both arms and tear the crown from her 
head." 

"H'm," said the young man flippantly, "what be- 
came of the Bambino meanwhile, I wonder?" 

The scribe shrugged his shoulders. "We all know," 
said he, "that Cino the barber lies like a christened 
Jew; but I 'm not surprised the thing was known in ad- 
vance, for I make no doubt the priests pulled the wires 
that brought down the crown." 

The fat man looked scandalized, and the first speaker 
waved the subject aside as unworthy of attention. 

"Such tales are for women and monks," he said im- 
patiently. "But the business has its serious side. I tell 
you we are being hurried to our ruin. Here's this mat- 
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ter of dndning the manhes at Pontesoido. Wlio^s to 
pay for that? The class that profits by it? Not by a 
long way. It^s we who drain the land, and the peasants 
are to live on it.*" 

The visionary youth tossed back his hair. ^^But is n^t 
that an inspiration to you, sir?^ he exclaimed. ^^Does 
not your heart dilate at the thought of uplifting the 
condition of your down-trodden fellows?'' 

"My fellows? The peasantry my fellows?" cried the 
other. "I'd have you know, my young master, that I 
come of a long and honorable line of cloth-merchants, 
that have had their names on the Guild for two hun* 
dred years and over. I 've nothing to do with the peas- 
antry, thank Grod!" 

The youth had emptied another glass. "What?" he 
screamed. "You deny the universal kinship of man? 
You disown your starving brother? Proud tyrant, re- 
member the Bastille!" He burst into tears and began 
to quote Alfieri. 

"Well," said the fat man, turning a disgusted shoul- 
der on this display of emotion, "to my mind this busi- 
ness of draining Pontesordo is too much like telling the 
Almighty what to do. If Grod made the land wet, what 
right have we to dry it? Those that begin by meddling 
with the Creator's works may end by laying hands on 
the Creator." 

"You're right," said another. "There's no knowing 
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where these new-fangled notions may land us. For my 
part, I was rather taken by them at first; but since I 
find that his Highness, to pay for all his good works, is 
cutting down his household and throwing decent people 
out of a job — like my own son, for instance, that was 
one of the under-steward^s boys at the palace — why, 
since then, I begin to see a Uttle farther into the game.**^ 

A shabby shrewd-looking fellow in a dirty coat and 
snufF-stained stock had sauntered up to the table and 
stood listening with an amused smile. 

"Ah,'' said the scribe, glancing up, "here's a thor- 
oughgoing reformer, who'll be asking us all to throw 
up our hats for the new charter." 

The new-comer laughed contemptuously. "I?" he 
said. ^*Grod forbid! The new charter's none of my 
making. It's only another dodge for getting round 
the populace — for appearing to give them what they 
would rise up and take if it were denied them any 
longer." 

"Why, I thought you were hot for these reforms?" 
exclaimed the fat man with surprise. 

The other shrugged. "You might as well say I was 
in favor of having the sun rise to-morrow. It would prob- 
ably rise at the same hoiu: if I voted against it. Reform 
is bound to come, whether your Dukes and Princes are 
for it or against it; and those that grant constitutions 
instead of refusing them are like men who tie a string 
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to their hats before going out in a gale. The string may 
hold for a while — but if it blows hard enough the hats 
will all come off in the end.*" 

^^Ay, ay; and meanwhile we furnish the string from 
our own pockets,*" said the scribe with a chuckle. 

The shabby man grinned. "It won't be the last thing 
to come out of your pockets,^ said he, turning to push 
his way toward another table. 

The others rose and called for their reckoning; and 
the listener on the cask slipped out of his comer, el- 
bowed a passage to the door and stepped forth into 
the square. 

It was after midnight, a thin drizzle was falling, and 
the crowd had scattered. The rain was beginning to 
extinguish the paper lanterns and the torches, and the 
canvas sides of the tents flapped dismally, like wet sheets 
on a clothes-line. The man drew his cloak closer, and 
avoiding the stragglers who crossed his path, turned 
into the first street that led to the palace. He walked 
fast over the slippery cobble-stones, buffeted by a rising 
wind and threading his way between dark walls and 
sleeping house-fronts till he reached the lane below the 
ducal gardens. He unlocked the door by which he had 
come forth, entered the gardens, and paused a moment 
on the terrace above the lane. 

Behind him rose the palace, a dark irregular bulk, 
with a lighted window showing here and there. Before 
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him lay the city, an indistinguishable huddle of roofs 
and towers under the rainy night. He stood awhile gaz- 
ing out over it; then he turned and walked toward the 
palace. The garden alleys were deserted, the pleached 
walks dark as subterranean passages, with the wet gleam 
of statues starting spectrally out of the blackness. The 
man walked rapidly, leaving the Borromini wing on his 
left, and skirting the outstanding mass of ihe older 
buildings. Behind the marble buttresses of the chapel 
he crossed the dense obscurity of a court between high 
walls, found a door under an archway, turned a key in 
the lock, and gained a spiral stairway as dark as the 
court He groped his way up the stairs and paused a 
moment on the landing to listen. Then he opened 
another door, lifted a heavy hanging of tapestry, and 
stepped into the Duke^s closet. It stood empty, with a 
lamp burning low on the desk. 

The man threw off his cloak and hat, dropped into a 
chair beside the desk, and hid his face in his hands. 



IX 

IT was the eve of the Duke^s birthday. A cabinet 
council had been called in the morning, and his 
Highnesses ministers had submitted to him the revised 
draft of the constitution which was to be proclaimed 
on the morrow. 

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Throughout the conference, which was brief and 
formal, Odo had been conscious of a subtle change in 
the ministerial atmosphere. Instead of the current of 
resistance against which he had grown used to forcing 
his way, he became aware of a tadt yielding to his will. 
Trescorre had apparently withdrawn his opposition to 
the charter, and the other ministers had followed suit. 
To Odo^s overwrought imagination there was something 
ominous in the change. He had counted on the goad of 
opposition to fight off the fatal languor which he had 
learned to expect at such crises. Now that he found 
there was to be no struggle he understood how largely 
his zeal had of late depended on such factitious incen- 
tives. He felt an irrational longing to throw himself on 
the other side of the conflict, to tear in bits the paper 
awaiting his signature, and disown the policy which 
had dictated it. But the tide of acquiescence on which 
he was afloat was no stagnant back-water of indifference, 
but the glassy reach just above the fall of a river. The 
current was as swift as it was smooth, and he felt him- 
self hurried forward to an end he could no longer es- 
cape. He took the pen which Trescorre handed him, and 
signed the constitution. 

The meeting over, he summoned Gamba. He felt the 

need of such encouragement as the hunchback alone 

could give. Fulvia^s enthusiasms were too unreal, too 

abstract. She lived in a region of ideals, whence ugly 

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facts were swept out by some process of mental house- 
wifery which kept her world perpetually smiling and im- 
maculate. Gamba at least fed his convictions on facts. 
If his outlook was narrow it was direct: no roseate 
medium of fancy was interposed between his vision and 
the truth. 

He stood listening thoughtfully while Odo poured 
forth his doubts. 

^Yoiu* Highness may well hesitate,^ he said at last 
^^ There are always more good reasons against a new 
state of things than for it. I am not surprised that 
Count Trescorre appears to have withdrawn his opposi- 
tion. I believe he now honestly wishes your Highness to 
proclaim the constitution.'" 

Odo looked up in surprise. **You do not mean that 
he has come to believe in it?'' 

Gkunba smiled. ^^ Probably nob in your Highnesses 
sense; but he may have found a use of his own for if 

**What do you mean?'' Odo asked. 

^^K he does not believe it will benefit the state he 
may think it will injure yoiu* Highness." 

"Ah — " said the Duke slowly. 

There was a pause, during which he was possessed by 
the same shuddering reluctance to fix his mind on the 
facts before him as when he had questioned the hunch- 
back about Momola's death. He longed to cast the 
whole business aside, to be up and away from it, draw- 
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ing breath in a new world where every air was not 
tainted with corruption. He raised his head with an 
effort. 

"You think, then, that the liberals are secretly act- 
ing against me in this matter?^ 

**I am persuaded of it, your Highness.*" 

Odo hesitated. "You have always told me,^ he began 
again, "that the love of dominion was your brother's 
ruling passion. If he really believes this movement will 
be popular with the people, why should he secretly op- 
pose it, instead of making the most of his own share in 
it as the minister of a popular sovereign.'*^ 

^*For several reasons,^ Gamba answered promptly. 
"In the first place, the reforms your Highness has in- 
troduced are not of his own choosing, and Trescorre has 
little S3rmpathy with any policy he has not dictated. 
In the second place, the powers and opportunities of 
a constitutional minister are too restricted to satisfy 
his appetite for rule; and thirdly — '" he paused a mo- 
ment, as though doubtful how his words would be 
received — "I suspect Trescorre of having a private 
score against your Highness, which he would be glad 
to pay off publicly.'' 

Odo fell silent, yielding himself to a fresh current of 
thought. 

*^I know not what score he may have against me,'' he 
said at length; "but what injures me must injure the 
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state, and if Trescorre has any such motive for with- 
drawing his opposition, it must be because he believes 
the constitution will defeat its own ends.*" 

*^He does believe that, €issiu^y; but he is not the 
only one of your Highness'^s ministers that would ruin 
the state on the chance of finding an opportunity among 
the ruins.^ 

"That is as it may be," said Odo with a touch of 
weariness. "I have seen enough of human ambition to 
learn how limited and unimaginative a passion it is. If 
it saw farther I should fear it more. But if it is short- 
sighted it sees clearly at close range; and the motive 
you ascribe to Trescorre would imply that he believes 
the constitution will be a failure.'" 

"Without doubt, your Highness. I am convinced that 
your ministers have done all they could to prevent the 
proclamation of the charter, and failing that, to thwart 
its workings if it be proclaimed. In this they have gone 
hand in hand with tfie clergy, and their measures have 
been well taken. But I do not believe that any state of 
mind produced by external influences can long with- 
stand the natural drift of opinion; and your Highness 
may be sure that, though the talkers and writers are 
mostly against you in this matter, the mass of the 
people are with you.*" 

Odo answered with a despairing gesture. "How can 
I be sure, when the people have no means of express- 
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ing their needs? It is like trying to guess the wants of 
a deaf and dumb man!^ 

The hunchback flushed suddenly. "The people will 
not always be deaf and dumb,^ he said. "Some day they 
will speak.^ 

"Not in my day,'' said Odo wearily, f* And meanwhile 
we blunder on without ever reaUy knowing what in- 
calculable instincts and prejudices are pitted against 
us. You and yovu: party tell me the people are sick of 
the burdens the clergy lay on them — yet their blind 
devotion to the Church is manifest at every txmi, and 
it did not need the business of the Virgin's crown to 
show me how little reason and justice can avail against 
such influences.'' 

Gamba replied by an impatient gestiue. ^^As to the 
Virgin's crown," he said, "yovu: Highness must have 
guessed it was one of the friars' tricks: a last expedient 
to turn the people against you. I was not bred up by a 
priest for nothing; I know what past masters those gen- 
try are in raising ghosts and reading portents. They 
know the minds of the poor folk as the herdsman knows 
the habits of his cattle; and for generations they have 
used that knowledge to bring the people more com- 
pletely under their control." 

"And what have we to oppose to such a power?" 
Odo exclaimed. "We are fighting the battle of ideas 
against passions, of reflection against instinct; and 
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you have but to look in the human heart to guess 
which side will win in such a struggle. We have sci- 
ence and truth and common-sense with us, you say — 
yes, but the Church has love and fear and tradition, 
and the solidarity of nigh two thousand years of do- 
minion.'* 

Gamba listened in respectful silence; then he replied 
with a faint smile: "All that your Highness says is 
true; but I beg leave to relate to your Highness a tale 
which I read lately in an old book of your library. Ac- 
cording to this story it appears that when the early 
Christians of Alexandria set out to destroy the pagan 
idols in the temples they were seized with great dread 
at sight of the goddess Serapis; for even those that did 
not believe in the old gods feared them, and none dared 
raise a hand against the sacred image. But suddenly a 
soldier who was bolder than the rest flung his battle- 
axe at the figure — and when it broke in pieces, there 
rushed out nothing worse than a great company of 
rats.^ . . 

The Duke had promised to visit Fulvia that evening. 
For several days his state of indecision had made him 
find pretexts for avoiding her; but now that the charter 
was signed and he had ordered its proclamation, he 
craved the contact of her imwavering faith. 

He found her alone in the dusk of the convent parlor; 
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but he had hardly crossed the threshold before he was 
aware of an indefinable change in his surroundings. She 
advanced with an impulsiveness out of harmony with 
the usual tranquillity of their meetings, and he felt her 
hand tremble and bum in his. In the twilight it seemed 
to him that her very dress had a warmer rustle and 
glimmer, that there emanated from her glance and 
movements some heady fragrance of a long-past sum- 
mer. He smiled to think that this phantom coquetry 
should have risen at the summons of an academic de- 
gree; but some deeper sense in him was stirred as 
by a vision of waste riches adrift on the dim seas of 
chance. 

For a moment she sat silent, as in the days when 
they had been too near each other for many words; 
and there was something indescribably soothing in this 
dreamlike return to the past It was he who roused him- 
self first 

"How young you look!'* he said, giving involuntarily 
utterance to his thought 

"Do I?** she answered gaily. "I am glad of that, 
for I feel extraordinarily young to-night. Perhaps it 
is because I have been thinking a great deal of the 
old days — of Venice and Turin — and of the highroad 
to Vercelli, for instance.'" She glanced at him with a 
smile. 

"Do you know,^ she went on, moving to a seat at his 
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side, and laying a hand on the arm of his chair, ^Hhat 
there is one secret of mine you have never guessed in 
all these years ?** 

Odo returned her smile. "What is it, I wonder?" he 
said. 

She fixed him with bright bantering eyes. "I knew 
why you deserted us at Vercelli." He uttered an excla- 
mation, but she lifted a hand to his lips. "Ah, how 
angry I was then — but why be angiy now? It all hap- 
pened so long ago; and if it had not happened — 
who knows? — perhaps you would never have pitied 
me enough to love me as you did.'' She laughed soflly, 
reminiscently, leaning back as if to let the tide of memo- 
ries ripple over her. Then she raised her head suddenly, 
and said in a changed voice: "Are your plans fixed for 
to-morrow?" 

Odo glanced at her in surprise. Her mind seemed to 
move as capriciously as Maria Clementina's. 

"The constitution is signed," he answered, "and my 
ministers proclaim it to-morrow morning." He looked at 
her a moment, and lifted her hand to his lips. "Every- 
thing has been done according to your wishes," he 
said. 

She drew away with a start, and he saw that she had 
tinned pale. "No, no — not as I wish," she murmured. 
"It must not be because / wish — " she broke off and 
her hand slipped from his. 

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**You have taught me to wish as you wish,'' he an- 
swered gently. "Surely you would not disown your 
pupil now?'' 

Her agitation increased. '^Do not call yourself tibat!^ 
she exclaimed. "Not even in jest. What you have done 
has been done of your own choice — because you thought 
it best for your people. My nearness or absence could 
have made no difference." 

He looked at her with growing wonder. ^'Why this 
sudden modesty?" he said with a smile. "I thought you 
prided yoiurself on your share in the great work." 

She tried to force an answering smile, but the curve 
broke into a quiver of distress, aud she came close to 
him, with a gesture that seemed to take flight from 
herself. 

"Don't say it, don't say it!" she broke out "What 
right have they to call it my doing? I but stood aside 
aud watched you and gloried in you — is there auy guilt 
to a woman in tJuxtf^ She clung to him a moment, hid- 
iag her face in his breast. 

He loosened her arms gently, that he might draw 
back and look at her. "Fulvia," he asked, "what ails 
you? You are not yourself to-night. Has anything hap- 
pened to distress you? Have you been annoyed or 
alarmed in auy way? — It is not possible," he broke 
off, "that Trescorre has been here — ?" 

She dr^w ftwajr, flushed and protesting, "No, no," 
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she exclaimed. "Why should Trescorre come here? Why 
should you fancy that any one has been here? I am ex- 
cited, I know; I talk idly; but it is because I have been 
thinking too long of these things — '^ 

«0f what thmgs?" 

"Of what people say — how can one help hearing 
that? I sometimes fancy that the more withdrawn one 
lives the more distinctly one hears the outer noises.^ 

"But why should you heed the outer noises? You 
have never done so before.'* 

"Perhaps I was wrong not to do so before. Perhaps 
I should have listened sooner. Perhaps others have 
seen — imderstood — sooner than I — oh, the thought 
is intolerable!^ 

She moved a pace or two away, and then, regaining 
the mastery of her lips and eyes, turned to him with a 
show of calmness. 

"Your heart was never in this charter — " she began. 

"Fulvia!'' he cried protestingly ; but she lifted a 
silencing hand. "Ah, I have seen it — I have felt it — 
but I was never willing to own that you were right. My 
pride in you blinded me, I suppose. I could not bear to 
dream any fate for you but the greatest. I saw you al- 
ways leading events, rather than waiting on them. But 
true greatness lies in the man, not in his actions. Com- 
promise, delay, renunciation — these may be as heroic 
as conflict. A woman's vision is so narrow that I did 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

not see this at first. You have always told me that I 
looked only at one side of the question; but I see the 
other side now — I see that you were right.'* 

Odo stood silent. He had followed her with grow- 
ing wonder. A volte-face so little in keeping with 
her mental habits immediately struck him as a feint; 
yet so strangely did it accord with his own secret re- 
luctances that these inclined him to let it pass unques- 
tioned. 

Some instinctive loyalty to his past checked the 
temptation. *'I am not sure that I understand you,^ he 
said slowly. ^^Have you lost faith in the ideas we have 
worked for?'' 

She hesitated, and he saw the struggle beneath her 
surface calmness. ^^No, no,'' she exclaimed quickly, **I 
have not lost faith in them — " 

"In me, then?" 

She smiled with a disarming sadness. "That would 
be so much simpler!" she murmured. 

"What do you mean, then?" he urged. "We must 
understand each other." He paused, and measured his 
words out slowly. "Do you think it a mistake to pro- 
claim the constitution to-morrow?" 

Again her face was full of shadowy contradictions. 
"I entreat you not to proclaim it to-morrow," she said 
in a low voice. 

Odo felt the blood drum in his ears. Was not this 
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THE REWARD 

the word for which he had waited? But still some 
deeper instinct held him back, warning him, as it 
seemed, that to fall below his purpose at such a junc- 
ture was the only measurable failure. He must know 
more before he yielded, see deeper into her heart and 
his; and each moment brought the clearer conviction 
that there was more to know and see. 

"This is unlike you, Fulvia,'' he said. "You cannot 
make such a request on impulse. You must have a 
reason.*** 

She smiled. "You told me once that a woman^s rea- 
sons are only impulses in men^s clothes.** 

But he was not to be diverted by this thrust. "I 
shall think so now,** he said, "unless you can give me 
some better account of yours.** 

She was silent, and he pressed on with a persistency 
for which he himself could hardly account: "You must 
have a reason for this request.** 

"I have one,** she said, dropping her attempts at 
evasion. 

"And it is—?** 

She paused again, with a look of appeal against 
which he had to stiffen himself. 

"I do not believe the time has come,** she said at 
length. 

"You think the people are not ready for the con- 
stitution?** 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

She answered with an effort: ^^I think the people are 
not ready for it.*** 

He fell silent, and they sat &cing each other, but 
with eyes apart. 

^You have received this impression from Gkmba, 
from Andreoni — firom the members of our party ?^ 

She made no reply. 

"Remember, Fulvia,'* he went on almost sternly, 
^Hhat this is the end for which we have worked to- 
gether all these years — the end for which we renounced 
each other and went forth in our youth, you to exile 
and I to an unwilling sovereignty. It was because we 
loved this cause better than ourselves that we had 
strength to give up our own hopes of happiness. If 
we betray the cause from any merely personal mo- 
tive we shall have fallen below our earlier sdves.** 
He waited again, but she was still silent. "Can you 
swear to me,''' he went on, "that no such motive influ- 
ences you now? That you honestly believe we have 
been deceived and mistaken? That our years oif faith 
and labor have been wasted, and that, if mankind is to 
be helped, it is to be in other ways and by other efforts 
than oiurs?^ 

He stood before her accusingly, almost, the passion 
of the long fight surging up in him as he felt the 
weapon drop from his hand. 

Fill via had sat motionless under his appeal; but as 
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THE REWARD 

he paused she rose with an impulsive gesture. ^^Oh, why 
do you torment me with questions?^ she cried, half- 
sobbing. ^'I venture to counsel a delay, and you arraign 
me as though I stood at the day of judgments 

"It w om: day of judgment,'^ he retorted. "It is the 
day on which life confronts us with our own actions, 
and we must justify them or own ourselves deluded.'" 
He went up to her and caught her hands entreatingly. 
"Fulvia,'' he said, "I too have doubted, wavered — and 
if you will give me one honest reason that is worthy of 
us both — '^ 

She broke from him to hide her weeping. "Reasons! 
reasons!^ she stammered. "What does the heart know 
of reasons? I ask a favor — the first I ever asked of you 
— and you answer it by haggling with me for reasons!^ 

Something in her voice and gesture was like a light- 
ning-ilash over a dark landscape. In an instant he saw 
the pit at his feet. 

"Some one has been with you. Those words were not 
yours," he cried. 

She rallied instantly. "That is a pretext for not heed- 
ing them!" she returned. 

The lightning glared again. He stepped dose and 
faced her. 

"The Duchess has been here," he said. 

She dropped into a chair and hid her face from him. 
A wave of anger mounted from his heart, choking back 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

his words and filling his brain with its fiunes. But as it 
subsided he felt himself suddenly cool, firm, attempered. 
There could be no wavering, no self-questioning now. 

"When did this happen?" he asked. 

She shook her head despairingly. 

•^Fulvia," he said, "if you will not speak I will speak 
for you. I can guess what arguments were used — what 
threats, even. Were there threats?" burst from him in 
a fresh leap of anger. 

She raised her head slowly. "Threats would not have 
mattered," she said. 

"But your fears were played on — your fears for my 
safety? — Fulvia, answer me!" he insisted. 

She rose suddenly and laid her arms about his shoul- 
ders, with a gesture half-tender, half-maternal. 

"Oh," she said, "why will you torture me? I have 
borne much for our lovers sake, and would have borne 
this too — in silence, like the rest — but to speak of it 
is to relive it; and my strength fails me!" 

He held her hands fast, keeping his eyes on hers. 
"No," he said, "for your strength never fisdled you when 
there was any call on it; and our whole past calls on it 
now. Rouse yourself, Fulvia: look life in the fistce! You 
were told there might be troubles to-morrow — that I 
was in danger, perhaps?" 

"There was worse — there was worse," she shuddered. 

"Worse?" 

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THE REWARD 

"The blame was laid on me — the responsibility. Your 
love for me, my power over you, were accused. The peo- 
ple hate me — they hate you for loving me! Oh, I have 
destroyed you!'' she cried. 

Odo felt a slow cold strength pouring into all his 
veins. It was as though his enemies, in thinking to mix 
a mortal poison, had rendered him invulnerable. He 
bent over her with great gentleness. 

"Fulvia, this is madness,'' he said. "A moment's 
thought must show you what passions are here at work. 
Can you not rise above such fears? No one can judge 
between us but ourselves." 

"Ah, but you do not know — you will not understand. 
Your life may be in danger!" she cried. 

"I have been told that before," he said contemptu- 
ously. "It is a common trick of the political game." 

"This is no trick," she exclaimed. "I was made to see 
— to understand — and I swear to you that the danger 
is real." 

"And what if it were? Is the Church lo have all the 
martjnrs?" said he gaily. "Come, Fulvia, shake off such 
fancies. My life is as safe as yours. At woi*st there may 
be a little hissing to be faced. That is easy enough com- 
pared to facing one's own doubts. And I have no doubts 
now — that is all past, thank heaven! I see the road 
straight before me — as straight as when you showed 
it to me once before, years ago, in the inn-parlor at 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

Peschiera. You pointed the way to it then; surely 
jou would not hold me back from it now?^ 

He took her in his arms and kissed her lips to silence. 

"When we meet to-morrow,'' he said, releasing her, 
"it will be as teacher and pupil, you in your doctor's 
gown and I a learner at your feet. Put your old faith in 
me into your argument, and we shall have all Pianura 
converted." 

He hastened away through the dim gardens, canying 
a boy's heart in his breast. 



THE Universily of Pianura was lodged in the an- 
cient Signoria or Town Hall of the free city; and 
here, on the afternoon of the Duke's birthday, the civic 
dignitaries and the leading men of the learned profes- 
sions had assembled to see the doctorate conferred on 
the Signorina Fulvia Vivaldi and on several less con- 
spicuous candidates of the other sex. 

The city was again in gala dress. Early that morning 
the new constitution had been proclaimed, with much 
firing of cannon and display of official fireworks; but 
even these great news, and their attendant manifesta- 
tions, had failed to enliven the populace, who, instead 
of filling the streets with their usual stir, hung massed 
at certain points, as though curiously waiting on events. 
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THE REWARD 

There are few sights more ommous than that of a 
crowd thus observing itself, watching in inconscient 
suspense for the unknown crisis which its own passions 
have engendered. 

It was known that his Highness, after the public 
banquet at the palace, was to proceed in state to the 
University; and the throng was thick about the palace 
gates and in the streets betwixt it and the Signoria, 
Here the square was close-packed, and every window 
choked with gazers, as the Duke^s coach came in sight, 
escorted meagrely by his equerries and the half-dozen 
light-horse that preceded him. The small escort, and 
the marked absence of military display, perhaps disap- 
pointed the splendor-loving crowd; and from this cause 
or another, scarce a cheer was heard as his Highness 
descended from his coach, and walked up the steps to 
the porch of ancient carved stone where the faculty 
awaited him. 

The hall was already filled with students and gradu- 
ates, and with the guests of the University. Through 
this grave assemblage the Duke passed up to the row 
of arm-chairs beneath the dais at the farther end of 
the room. Trescorre, who was to have attended his 
Highness, had excused himself on the plea of indis- 
position, and only a few gentlemen-in-waiting accom- 
panied the Duke; but in the brown half-light of the 
old Gothic hall their glittering imiforms contrasted 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

brilliantly with the Uack gowns of the students, and 
the sober broadcloth of the learned professions. A dis- 
creet murmur of enthusiasm rose at their approach, 
mounting almost to a cheer as the Duke bowed be- 
fore taking his seat; for the audience represented the 
class most in sympathy with his policy and most confi- 
dent of its success. 

The meetings of the faculty were held in the great 
council-chamber where the Rectors of the old free city 
had assembled; and such a setting was regarded as pe- 
culiarly appropriate to the present occasion. The &ct 
was alluded to, with much wealth of historical and 
mythological analogy, by the President, who opened 
the ceremonies with a polysyllabic Latin oration, in 
which the Duke was compared to Apollo, Hercules and 
Jason, as well as to the flower of sublunary heroes. 

This feat of rhetoric over, the candidates were called 
on to advance and receive their degrees. The men came 
first, profiting by the momentary advantage of sex, but 
clearly aware of its inability to confer even momentary 
importance in the eyes of the impatient audience. A 
pause followed, and then Fulvia appeared. Against the 
red^robed faculty at the back of the dais, she stood tall 
and slender in her black cap and gown. The high win- 
dows of painted glass shed a paleness on her face, but 
her carriage was light and assured as she advanced to 
the President and knelt to receive her degree. The 
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THE REWARD 

parchment was placed in her hand, the furred hood laid 
on her shoulders; then, after another flourish of rhet- 
oric, she was led to the lectern from which her discourse 
was to be delivered. Odo sat just below her, and as she 
took her place their eyes met for an instant. He was 
caught up in the serene exaltation of her look, as 
though she soared with him above wind and cloud to 
a region of unshadowed calm; then her eyes fell and 
she began to speak. 

She had a pretty mastery of Latin, and though she 
had never before spoken in public, her poetical recita- 
tions, and the early habit of intercourse with her fa- 
ther'^s friends, had given her a fair measure of fluency 
and self-possession. These qualities were raised to elo- 
quence by the sweetness of her voice, and by the grave 
beauty which made the academic gown seem her natural 
wear, rather than a travesty of learning. Odo at first 
had some difiiculty in fixing his attention on what she 
said; and when he controlled his thoughts she was in the 
height of her panegyric of constitutional liberty. She 
had begun slowly, almost coldly; but now her theme 
possessed her. One by one she evoked the familiar 
formulas with which his mind had once reverberated. 
They woke no echo in him now; but he saw that she 
could still set them ringing through the sensibilities of 
her hearers. As she stood there, a slight impassioned 
figure, warming to her high argument, his sense of irony 
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was touched by the incongruity of her background. 
The wall behind her was covered by an ancient fresco, 
fast fisuling under its touches of renewed gilding, and 
representing the patron scholars of the mediaeval world : 
the theologians, law-givers and logicians under whose 
protection the free city had placed its budding liberties. 
There they sat, rigid and sumptuous on their Grothic 
thrones: Origen, Zeno, David, Lycurgus, Aristotle; lis- 
tening in a kind of cataleptic helplessness to a confes- 
sion of faith that scattered their doctrines to the winds. 
As he looked and listened, a weary sense of the reiter- 
ance of things came over him. For what were these an- 
cient manipulators of ideas, prestidigitators of a van- 
ished world of thought, but the forbears of the long 
line of theorists of whom Fulvia was the last inconscient 
mouthpiece? The new game was still played with the 
old counters, the new jugglers repeated the old tricks; 
and the very words now poured out in defence of the 
new cause were but mercenaries scarred in the service 
of its enemies. For generations, for centuries man had 
fought on; crying for liberty, dreaming it was won, wak- 
ing to find himself the slave of the new forces he had 
generated, burning and being biunt for the same be- 
liefs under different guises, calling his instincts ideas 
and his ideas revelations; destroying, rebuilding, fall- 
ing, rising, mending broken weapons, championing ex- 
tinct illusions, mistaking his failures for achievements 
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THE REWARD 

and planting his flag on the ramparts as they fell. And 
as the vision of this inveterate conflict rose before him, 
Odo saw that the beauty, the power, the immortality, 
dwelt not in the idea but in the struggle for it. 

His resistance yielded as this sense stole over him, 
and with an almost physical relief he felt himself 
drawn once more into the fisimiliar current of emotion. 
Yes, it was better after all to be one of that great un- 
conquerable army, though, like the Trojans fighting 
for a phantom Helen, they might be doing battle for 
the shadow of a shade; better to march in their ranks, 
endure with them, fight with them, fSedl with them, than 
to miss the great enveloping sense of brotherhood that 
tinned defeat to victory. 

As the conviction grew in him, Pulvia's words re- 
gained their lost significance. Through the set mask of 
language the living thoughts looked forth, old indeed 
as the world, but renewed with the new life of every 
heart that bore them. She had left the abstract and 
dropped to concrete issues: to the gift of the constitu- 
tion, the benefits and obligations it implied, the new 
relations it established between ruler and subject and 
between man and man. Odo saw that she approached 
the question without flinching. No trace remained of 
the trembling woman who had clung to him the night 
before. Her old convictions repossessed her and she 
soared above human fears. 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

So engrossed was he that he had been unaware of a 
growing murmur of sound which seemed to be forcing 
its way from without through the walls of the ancient 
building. As Fulvia^s oration neared its end the mur- 
mur rose to a roar. Startled faces were turned toward 
the doors of the council-chamber, and one of the Duke'^s 
gentlemen left his seat and made his way through the 
audience. Odo sat motionless, his eyes on Fulvia. He 
noticed that her face paled as the sound reached her, 
but there was no break in the voice with which she 
uttered the closing words of her peroration. As she 
ended, the noise was momentarily drowned imder a 
loud burst of clapping; but this died in a hush of 
apprehension, through which the outer tumult became 
more ominously audible. The equerry reentered the 
hall with a disordered countenance. He hastened to 
the Duke and addressed him urgently. 

^* Yom* Highness,^ he said, *Hhe crowd has thickened 
and wears an ugly look. There are many friars abroad, 
and images of the Mountain Virgin are being carried 
in procession. Will your Highness be pleased to remain 
here while I summon an escort from the barracks?^ 

Odo was still watching Fulvia. She had received the 
applause of the audience with a deep reverence, and was 
now in the act of withdrawing to the inner room at the 
back of the dais. Her eyes met Odo^s; she smiled and 
the door closed on her. He turned to the equerry. 
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THE REWARD 

**There is no need of an escort,'' he said. ^I trust my 
people if they do not trust me," 

^^But, your Highness, the streets are full of dema« 
gogues who have been haranguing the people since 
morning. The crowd is shouting against the constitu- 
tion and against the Signorina Vivaldi.'" 

A flame of anger passed over the Duke's face; but he 
subdued it instantly. 

^Gro to the Signorina Vivaldi," he said, pointing to 
the door by which Fulvia had left the hall. ^Assure 
her that there is no danger, but ask her to remain 
where she is till the crowd disperses, and request the 
faculty in my name to remain with her." 

The equerry bowed, and hurried up the steps of the 
dais, while the Duke signed to his other companions to 
precede him to the door of the hall. As they walked 
down the long room, between the close-packed ranks of 
the audience, the outer tumult surged threateningly 
toward them. Near the doorway, another of the gentle- 
men-in-waiting was seen to speak with the Duke. 

"Your Highness," he said, "there is a private way at 
the back by which you may yet leave the building un- 
observed." 

"You appear to forget that I entered it publicly," 
said Odo. 

"But, your Highness, we cannot answer for the con- 
sequences — " 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

The Duke signed tx> the ushers to throw open the 
doors. They obeyed, and he stepped out into the stone 
vestibule preceding the porch. The iron-barred outer 
doors of this vestibule were securely bolted, and the 
porter hung back in affiight at the order to unlock 
them. 

^Your Highness, the people are raving mad,^ he 
said, flinging himself on his knees. 

Odo turned impatiently to his escort ''Unbar the 
doors, gentlemen,^ he said. The blood was drumming 
in his ears, but his eye was clear and steady, and he 
noted with curious detachment the comic agony of 
the fat porter^s face, and the strain and swell of the 
equerxy^s muscles as he dragged back the ponderous 
bolts. 

The doors swung open, and the Duke emerged. Below 
him, still with that imimpaired distinctness of vision 
which seemed a part of his heightened vitality, he saw 
a great gesticulating mass of people. They packed the 
square so closely that their own numbers held them 
immovable, save for their swaying arms and heads; and 
those whom the square could not contain had climbed 
to porticoes, balconies and cornices, and massed them- 
selves in the neck of the adjoining streets. The hand- 
ful of Ught-horse who had escorted the Duke^s carriage 
formed a single line at the foot of the steps, so that the 
approach to the porch was still dear; but it was plain 
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THE REWARD 

that the crowd, with its next movement, would break 
through this slender barrier and hem in the Duke. 

At Odo's appearance the shouting had ceased and 
every eye was tiuned on him. He stood there, a bril- 
liant target, in his laced coat of peach-colored velvet, 
his breast covered with orders, a hand on his jewelled 
sword-hilt. For a moment sovereign and subjects mea- 
sured each other; and in that moment Odo drank his 
deepest draught of life. He was not thinking now of 
the constitution or its opponents. His present business 
was to get down the steps and into the carriage, re- 
tiuning to the palace as openly as he had come. He 
was conscious of neither pity nor hatred for the throng 
in his path. For the moment he regarded them merely 
as a natural force, to be fought against like storm or 
flood. His clearest sensation was one of relief at having 
at last some material obstacle to spend his strength 
against, instead of the impalpable powers which had so 
long beset him. He felt, too, a boyish satisfaction at his 
own steadiness of pulse and eye, at the absence of that 
fatal inertia which he had come to dread. So clear was 
his mental horizon that it embraced not only the pres- 
ent crisis, but a dozen incidents leading up to it. He 
remembered that Trescorre had urged him to take a 
larger escort, and that he had refused on the ground 
that any military display might imply a doubt of his 
people. He was glad now that he had done so. He 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

would have hated to slink to his carriage behind a bar- 
rier of drawn swords. He wanted no help to see him 
through this business. The blood sang in his veins at 
the thought of facing it alone. 

The silence lasted but a moment; then an image of 
the Mountain Virgin was suddenly thrust in air, and a 
voice cried out: "Down with our Lady'^s enemies! We 
want no laws against the friars!^ 

A howl caught up the words and tossed them to and 
£ro above the seething heads. Images of the Virgin, re- 
ligious banners, the blue-and-white of the Madonna^s 
colors, suddenly canopied the crowd. 

"We want the Bamabites back!^ sang out another 
voice. 

"Down with the free-thinkers T yelled a hundred 
angry throats. 

A stone or two sped through the air and struck the 
sculptures of the porch. 

"Your Highness!'' cried the equerry who stood near- 
est, and would have snatched the Duke back within 
doors. 

For all answer, Odo stepped clear of the porch and ad- 
vanced to the edge of the steps. As he did so, a shower 
of missiles hummed about him, and a stone struck him 
on the lip. The blood rushed to his head, and he swayed 
in the sudden grip of anger; but he mastered himself 
and raised his lace handkerchief to the cut. 
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His gentlemen had drawn their swords; but he signed 
to them to sheathe again. His first thought was that 
he must somehow make the people hear him. He lifted 
his hand and advanced a step; but as he did so a shot 
rang out, followed by a loud cry. The lieutenant of the 
light-horse, infiuiated by the insult to his master, had 
drawn the pistol from his holster and fired blindly into 
the crowd. His bullet had found a mark, and the throng 
hissed and seethed about the spot where a man had 
fallen. At the same instant Odo was aware of a commo- 
tion in the group behind him, and with a great plimge 
of the heart he saw Fulvia at his side. She still wore 
the academic dress, and her black gown detached itself 
sharply against the bright colors of the ducal uniforms. 

Groans and hisses received her, but the mob hung 
back, as though her look had checked them. Then a 
voice shrieked out: **Down with the atheist! We want 
no foreign witches !*" and another caught it up with the 
yell: "She poisoned the weaver's boy! Her father was 
hanged for murdering Christian children!^ 

The cry set the crowd in motion again, and it rolled 
toward the line of mounted soldiers at the foot of the 
steps. The men had their hands on their holsters; but 
the Duke's call rang out: "No firing!'' and drawing their 
blades, they sat motionless to receive the shock. 

It came, dashed against them and dispersed them. 
Only a few yards lay now between the people and their 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

sovereign. But at that moment another shot was fired. 
This time it came £rom the thick of the crowd. The 
equerries^ swords leapt forth again, and they closed 
aroimd the Duke and Fulvia. 

^Save yourself, sir! Back into the building!^ one of 
the gentlemen shouted; but Odo had no eyes for what 
was coming. For as the shot was heard he had seen a 
change in Fulvia. A moment they had stood together, 
smiling, undaunted, hands locked and wedded eyes; then 
he felt her dissolve against him and drop between his 
arms. 

A cry had gone out that the Duke was wounded, and 
a leaden silence fell on the crowd In that silence Odo 
knelt, lifting Fulvia^s head to his breast No wound 
showed through her black gown. She lay as though 
smitten by some invisible hand. So deep was the hush 
that her least whisper must have reached him; but 
though he bent close no whisper came. The invisible 
hand had struck the very source of life; and to these 
two, in their moment of final reunion, with so much 
unsaid between them that now at last they longed to 
say, there was left only the dumb communion of jGsist- 
clouding eyes. . . 

A clatter of cavalry was heard down the streets that 

led to the square. The equerry sent to warn Fulvia had 

escaped from the back of the building and hastened to 

the barracks to summon a regiment. But the soldiery 

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THE REWARD 

were no longer needed. The blind fury of the mob had 
died of its own excess. The rumor that the Duke was 
hurt brought a chill reaction of dismay, and the rioters 
were already scattering when the cavalry came in sight. 
Their approach tinned the slow dispersal to a stampede. 
A few arrests were made, the remaining groups were 
charged by the soldiers, and presently the square lay 
bare as a storm-swept plain, though the people still hung 
on its outskirts, ready to disband at the first threat of 
the troops. 

It was on this solitude that the Duke looked out 
as he regained a sense of his surroimdings. Fulvia had 
been carried into the audience-chamber and laid on the 
dais, her head resting on the velvet cushions of the ducal 
chair. She had died instantly, shot through the heart, 
and the surgeons summoned in haste had soon ceased 
from their inefiectual efforts. For a long time Odo knelt 
beside her, unconscious of all but that one wild moment 
when life at its highest had been dashed into the gulf 
of death. Thought had ceased, and neither rage nor 
grief moved as yet across the chaos of his being. All 
his life was in his eyes, as they drew up, drop by drop, 
the precious essence of her loveliness. For she had 
grown, beneath the simplifying hand of death, strangely 
yet most humanly beautiful. Life had fallen from her 
like the husk from the flower, and she wore the face of 
her first hopes. The transition had been too swift for 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

any backward look, any anguished rending of the fibres, 
and he felt himself, not detached by the stroke, but 
caught up with her into some great calm within the 
heart of change. 

He knew not how he found himself once more on 
the steps above the square. Below him his state carriage 
stood in the same place, flanked by the regiment of 
cavalry. Down the narrow streets he saw the brooding 
cloud of people, and the sight roused his blood. They 
were his enemies now — he felt the warm hate in his 
veins. They were his enemies, and he would face them 
openly. No closed chariot guarded by troops — he would 
not have so much as a pane of glass between himself 
and his subjects. He descended the steps, bade the 
colonel of the regiment dismoimt, and sprang into his 
saddle. Then, at the head of his soldiers, at a foot- 
pace^ he rode back through the packed streets to the 
palace. 

In the palace, courtyard and vestibule were thronged 
with courtiers and lacqueys. He walked through them 
with his head high, the cut on his lip like the mark of 
a hot iron in the dead whiteness of his face. At the head 
of the great staircase Maria Clementina waited. She 
sprang forward, distraught and trembling, her face as 
blanched as his. 

"You are safe — you are safe — you are not hurt — ^ 
she stammered, catching at his hands. 
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THE REWARD 

A shudder seized him as he put her aside. 

^'Odo! Odo!^ she cried passionately, and made as 
though to bar his way. 

He gave her a blind look and passed on down the 
long gallery to his closet. 



XI 

THE joy of reprisals lasted no longer than a sum- 
mer storm. To hurt, to silence, to destroy, was 
too easy to be satisfjdng. The passions of his ancestors 
burned low in Odo^s breast: though he felt Braccia- 
forte's fiiry in his veins he could taste no answering 
gratification of revenge. And the spirit on which he 
would have spent his hatred was not here or there, as 
an embodied faction, but everywhere as an intangible 
influence. The acqiia tqfana of his enemies had per- 
vaded every fibre of the state. 

The mist of anguish lifted, he saw himself alone 
among ruins. For a moment Fulvia^s glowing faith had 
hung between him and a final vision of the truth; and 
as his convictions weakened he had replaced them with 
an immense pity, an all-sufficing hope. Sentimental 
verbiage: he saw it clearly now. He had been the dupe 
of the old word-jugglery which was forever confound- 
ing fact and fancy in men^s minds. For it was essen- 
tially an age of words: the world was drunk with them, 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

as it had once been drunk with action; and the former 
was the deadlier drug of the two. 

He looked about him languidly, letting the facts of 
life filter slowly through his fisuiulties. The sources of 
energy were so benumbed in him that he felt like a 
man whom long disease has reduced to helplessness 
and who must laboriously begin his bodily education 
again. Hate was the only passion which survived, and 
that was but a deaf intransitive emotion coiled in his 
nature^s depths. 

Sickness at last brought its obliteration. He sank 
into gulfs of weakness and oblivion, and when the rise 
of the tide floated him back to life, it was to a life as 
faint and colorless as infancy. Colorless too were the 
boundaries on which he looked out: the narrow en- 
closure of white walls, opening on a slit of pale spring 
landscape. His hands lay before him, white and help- 
less on the white coverlet of his bed. He raised his eyes 
and saw de Crucis at his side. Then he began to re- 
member. There had been preceding intervals of con- 
sciousness, and in one of them, in answer perhaps to 
some vaguely-uttered wish for light and air, he had 
been carried out of the palace and the city to the Bene- 
dictine monastery on its wooded knoll beyond the 
Piana. Then the veil had dropped again, and his spirit 
had wandered in a dim place of shades. There was a 
faint sweetness in coming back at last to familiar sights 
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THE REWARD 

and sounds. They no longer hurt like pressure on an 
aching nerve: they seemed rather, now, the touch of a 
reassuring hand. 

As the contact with life became closer and more sus- 
tained he began to watch himself curiously, wondering 
what instincts and habits of thought would survive his 
long mental death. It was with a bitter, almost pitiable 
disappointment that he found the old man growing 
again in him. Life, with a mocking hand, brought him 
the cast-off vesture of his past, and he felt himself 
gradually compressed again into the old passions and 
prejudices. Yet he wore them with a difference — they 
were a cramping garment rather than a living sheath. 
He had brought back from his lonely voyagings a sense 
of estrangement deeper than any surface-affinity with 
things. 

As his physical strength returned, and he was able to 
leave his room and walk through the long corridors to the 
outer air, he felt the old spell which the life of Monte 
Cassino had cast on him. The quiet garden, with its 
clumps of box and lavender between paths converging 
to the statue of Saint Benedict; the cloisters paved with 
the monks^ nameless graves; the traces of devotional 
painting left here and there on the weather-beaten walls, 
like fragments of prayer in a world-worn mind: these 
formed a circle of tranquillizing influences in which he 
could gradually reacquire the habit of living. 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

He had never deceived himself as to the cause of the 
riots. He knew firom Gramba and Andieoni that the 
liberals and the court, for once working in unison, had 
provoked the blind outburst of liEmaticism which a 
rasher judgment might have ascribed to the clergy. 
The Dominicans, bigoted and eager for power, had 
been ready enough to serve such an end, and some ,of 
the begging orders had furnished the necessary points 
of contact with the people; but the movement was at 
bottom piurely political, and represented the resistance 
of the privileged classes to any attack on their inherited 
rights. 

As such, he could no longer regard it as completely 
unreasonable. He was beginning to feel the social and 
political significance of those old restrictions and bar- 
riers against which his early zeal had tilted. Certainly 
in the ideal state the rights and obligations of the 
different classes would be more evenly adjusted. But the 
ideal state was a figment of the brain. The real one, as 
Crescenti had long ago pointed out, was the gradual 
and heterogeneous product of remote social conditions, 
wherein every seeming inconsistency had its roots in 
some bygone need, and the character of each class, with 
its special passions, ignorances and prejudices, was the 
smn total of influences so ingrown and inveterate that 
they had become a law of thought. All this, however, 
seemed rather matter for philosophic musing than for 
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THE REWARD 

definite action. His predominant feeling vnm still that 
of remoteness from the immediate issues of life: the 
sceva indignaiio had been succeeded by a great cahn. 

The soothing influences of the monastic life had 
doubtless helped to tide him over the stormy passage 
of returning consciousness. His sensitiveness to these 
influences inclined him for the first time to consider 
them analytically. Hitherto he had regarded the Church 
as a skilfully-adjusted engine, the product of human 
passions scientifically combined to obtain the greatest 
sum of tangible results. Now he saw that he had never 
penetrated beneath the surface. For the Church which 
grasped, contrived, calculated, struggled for temporal 
possessions and used material weapons against spiritual 
foes — tiiis outer Church was nothing more than the 
body, which, like any other animal body, had to care 
for its own gross needs, nourish, clothe, defend itself, 
fight for a footing among the material resistances of 
life — while the soul, the inner animating principle, 
might dwell aloof from all these things, in a dear 
medium of its own. 

To this soul of the Church his daily life now brought 
him close. He felt it in the ordered beneficence of the 
great community, in the simplicity of its external life 
and the richness and suavity of its inner relations. No 
alliance based on material interests, no love of power 
working toward a common end, could have created 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

that harmony of thought and act which was reflected 
in every face about him. Each of these men seemed to 
hAveJbtmd oui something of which he was still ignorant. 

What it was, de Cruds tried to tell him as they 
paced the cloisters together or sat in the warm stillness 
of the budding garden. At the first news of the Duke^s 
illness the Jesuit had hastened to Fianura. No com- 
panionship could have been so satisfying to Odo. De 
Crucis^s mental attitude toward mankind might have 
been defined as an iUuminated charity. To love men, or 
to understand them, is not as unusual as to do both 
together; and it was the intellectual acuteness of his 
friend^s judgments that made their Christian amenity 
so seductive to Odo. 

"The highest claim of Christianity,^ the Jesuit said 
one morning, as they sat on a worn stone bench at the 
end of the sunny vine- walk, "is that it has come nearer 
to solving the problem of men^s relations to each other 
than any system invented by themselves. This, after all, 
is the secret principle of the Churches vitality. She gave 
a spiritual charter of equality to mankind long before 
the philosophers thought of giving them a material 
one. If, all the while, she has been fighting for do- 
minion, arrogating to herself special privileges, strug- 
gling to preserve the old lines of social and legal de- 
marcation, it has been because for nigh two thousand 
years she has cherished in her breast the one firee city 
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THE REWARD 

of the spirit, because to guard its liberties she has had 
to defend and strengthen her own position. I do not 
ask you to consider whence comes this insight into the 
needs of man, this mysterious power over him; I ask 
you simply to confess them in their results. I am not 
of those who believe that Grod permits good to come to 
mankind through one channel only, and I doubt not 
that now and in times past the thinkers whom your 
Highness follows have done much to raise the condition 
of their fellows; but I would have you observe that, 
where they have done so, it has been because, at bot- 
tom, their aims coincided with the Church's. The deeper 
you probe into her secret sources of power, the more 
you find there, in the germ if you will, but still poten- 
tially active, all those humanizing energies which work 
together for the lifting of the race. In her wisdom and 
her patience she may have seen fit to withhold their ex- 
pression, to let them seek another outlet; but they are 
there, stored in her consciousness like the archetypes of 
the Platonists in the Universal Mind. It is the knowl- 
edge of this, the sure knowledge of it, which creates the 
atmosphere of serenity that you feel about you. From 
the tilling of the vineyards, or the dressing of a beg- 
gar's sores, to the loftiest and most complicated intel- 
lectual labor imposed on him, each brother knows that 
his daily task is part of a great scheme of action, work- 
ing ever from imperfection to perfection, from human 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

incompleteness to the divine completion. This sense of 
being, not straws on a blind wind of chance, but units 
in an ordered force, gives to the humblest Christian an 
individual security and dignity which kings on their 
thrones might envy. 

^But not only does the Church anticipate every ten* 
dency of mankind; alone of all powers she knows how 
to control and direct the passions she excites. This it is 
which makes her an auxiliary that no temporal prince 
can well despise. It is in this aspect that I would have 
your Highness consider her. Do not underrate her 
power because it seems based on the commoner instincts 
rather than on the higher fisunilties of man. That is 
one of the sources of her strength. She can support 
her claims by reason and argument, but it is because 
her work, like that of her divine Founder, lies chiefly 
among those who can neither reason nor argue, that 
she chooses to rest her appeal in the simplest and most 
universal emotions. As, in our towns, the streets are lit 
mainly by the tapers before the shrines of the saints, so 
the way of life would be dark to the great multitude of 
men but for the light of faith burning within them. . .^ 

Meanwhile the shufflings of destiny had brought to 

Trescorre the prize for which he waited. During the 

Duke^s illness he had been appointed Regent of Pia- 

nura, and his sovereign's reluctance to take up the cares 

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THE REWARD 

of government had now left him for six months in 
authority. The day after the proclaiming of the consti- 
tution Odo had withdrawn his signature from it, on the 
ground that the concessions it contained were inoppor- 
tune. The functions of government went on again in the 
old way. The old abuses persisted, the old offences were 
condoned: it was as though the apathy of the sovereign 
had been communicated to his people. Centuries of sub- 
mission were in their blood, and for two generations 
there had been no war&re south of the Alps. 

For the moment men^s minds were turned to the 
great events going forward in France. It had not yet 
occurred to the Italians that the recoil of these events 
might be felt among themselves. They were simply 
amused spectators, roused at last to the significance of 
the show, but never dreaming that they might soon be 
called from the wings to the footlights. To de Crucis, 
however, the possibility of such a call was already pres- 
ent, and it was he who pressed the Duke to return to 
his post. A deep reluctance held Odo back. He would 
have liked to linger on in the monastery, leading the 
tranquil yet busy life of the monks, and trying to read 
the baffling riddle of its completeness. At that moment 
it seemed to him of vastly more importance to discover 
the exact nature of the soul — whether it was in fact a 
metaphysical entity, as these men believed, or a mere 
secretion of the brain, as he had been taught to think 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

—-than to go back and gOTem his people. For what 
mattered the rest, if he had been mistaken about the 
soul? 

With a start he realized that he was going as his 
cousin had gone — that this was but another form of 
the fatal lethargy that hung upon his race. An effort 
of the will drew him back to Pianura, and made him 
resume the semblance of authority; but it carried him 
no farther. Trescorre ostensibly became prime-minister, 
and in reality remained the head of the state. The 
Duke was present at the cabinet meetings but took no 
part in the direction of affairs. His mind was lost in a 
meae of metaphysical speculations; and even these served 
him merely as some cunningly-contrived toy with whidi 
to trick his leisure. 

His revocation of the charter had necessarily sepa- 
rated him from Gamba and the advanced liberals. He 
knew that the hunchback, ever scornful of expediency, 
charged him with disloyalty to the people; but such 
charges could no longer wound. The events following the 
Duke^s birthday had served to cr3rstallize the schemes of 
the little liberal group, and they now formed a cam- 
paign of active opposition to the government, attacking 
it by means of pamphlets and lampoons, and by such 
public speaking as the police allowed. The new profes- 
sors of the University, ardently in sympathy with the 
constitutional movement, used their lectures as means 
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THE REWARD 

of political teaching, and the old stronghold of dogma 
became the centre of destructive criticism. But as yet 
these ideas formed but a single live point in the gen- 
eral numbness. 

Two years passed in this way. North of the Alps, 
all Europe was convulsed, while Italy was still but 
a sleeper who tosses in his sleep. In the two Sicilies, 
the arrogance and perfidy of the government gave a 
few martyrs to the cause, and in Bologna there was a 
brief revolutionary outbreak; but for the most part the 
Italian states were sinking into inanition. Venice, by 
recalling her fleet from Greece, let fall the dominion of 
the sea. Twenty years earlier Genoa had basely yielded 
Corsica to France. The Pope condemned the French for 
their outrages on religion, and his subjects murdered 
Basseville, the agent of the new republic. The sympa- 
thies and impulses of the various states were as con- 
tradictory as they were inefiectuaL 

Meanwhile, in France, Europe was trying to solve 
at a stroke the problems of a thousand years. All the 
repressed passions which civilization had sought, how- 
ever imperfectly, to ciurb, stalked abroad destructive as 
flood and fire. The great generation of the Encyclopae- 
dists had passed away, and the teachings of Rousseau 
had prevailed over those of Montesquieu and Voltaire. 
The sober sense of the economists was swept aside by 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

the found and furjr of the demagogies, and France was 
become a very Babel of tongues. The old malady of 
words had swept over the world like a pestilence. 

To the little Italian courts, still dozing in fancied se- 
curity under the wing of Bourbon and Hapsbuig suze- 
rains, these rumors were borne by the wild flight of 
^ii^gr^^^dead leaves loosened by the first blast of the 
storm. Month by month they poured across the Alps in 
ever-increasing numbers, bringing confused contradic- 
tory tales of anarchy and outrage. Among those whom 
chance thus carried to Fianura were certain familiars of 
the Duke's earUer life — the Count Alfieri and his royal 
mistress, flying from Paris, and arriving breathless with 
the tale of their private injuries. To the poet of revolt 
this sudden realization of his doctrines seemed in fact a 
purely personal outrage. It was as though a man writ- 
ing an epic poem on an earthquake should suddenly 
find himself engulphed. To Alfieri the downfall of the 
French monarchy and the triumph of democratic ideas 
meant simply that his French investments had shrunk 
to nothing, and that he, the greatest poet of the age, 
had been obliged, at an immense sacrifice of personal 
dignity, to plead with a drunken mob for leave to es- 
cape frt)m Paris. To the wider aspect of the "tragic 
farce,^ as he called it, his eyes remained obstinately 
closed. He viewed the whole revolutionary movement 
as a conspiracy against his comfort, and boasted that 
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THE REWARD 

during his enforced residence in France he had not so 
much as exchanged a word with one of the ** French 
slaves, instigators of false liberty,'' who, by trying to 
put into action the principles taught in his previous 
works, had so grievously interfered with the composi- 
tion of fresh masterpieces. 

The royal pretensions of the Countess of Albany — 
pretensions affirmed rather than abated as the tide of 
revolution rose — made it impossible that she should be 
received at the coiurt of Pianura; but the Duke found 
a mild entertainment in Alfieri's company. The poet's 
revulsion of feeling seemed to Odo like the ironic laugh- 
ter of the fates. His thoughts returned to the midnight 
meetings of the Honey Bees, and to the first vision of 
that face which men had laid down their lives to see. 
Men had looked on that face since then, and its horror 
was reflected in their own. 

Other fugitives to Pianura brought another impres* 
sion of events — that comic note which life, the supreme 
dramatic artist, never omits from her tragedies. These 
were the Duke's old friend the Marquis de Coeur-Volant, 
fleeing from his chSteau as the peasants put the torch 
to it, and arriving in Pianura destitute, gouty and 
middle-aged, but imperturbable and epigrammatic as 
ever. With him came his Marquise, a dark-eyed lady, 
stout to unwieldiness and much given to devotion, in 
whom it was whispered (though he introduced her as 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

the daughter of a Venetian Senator) that a reminiscent 
eye might still detect the outline of the gracefullest 
Columbine who had ever flitted across the Italian stage. 
These visitors were lodged by the Duke^s kindness in 
the Palazzo Cerveno, near the ducal residence; and 
though the ladies of Pianura were inclined to look 
askance on the Marquise^s genealogy, yet his Highnesses 
condescension, and her own edifying piety, had soon 
allayed these scruples, and the salon of Madame de 
Coeur- Volant became the rival of Madame d^Albany^s. 
It was, in fact, the more entertaining of the two; for, 
in spite of his lady^s austere views, the Marquis retained 
that gift of social flexibility that was already becoming 
the tradition of a happier day. To the Marquis, indeed, 
the revolution was execrable not so much because of the 
hardships it inflicted, as because it was the forerunner 
of social dissolution — the breaking-up of the regime 
which had made manners the highest morality, and 
conversation the chief end of man. He could have lived 
gaily on a crust in good company and amid smiling 
faces; but the social deficiencies of Pianura were more 
difiicult to endure than any material privation. In Italy, 
as the Marquis had more than once remarked, people 
loved, gambled, wrote poetry, and patronized the arts; 
but, alas, they did not converse. Coeur- Volant could not 
conceal from his Highness that there was no conversa- 
tion in Pianura; but he did his best to fill the void by 
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THE REWARD 

the constant exercise of his own gift in that direction, 
and to Odo at least his talk seemed as good as it was 
copious. Misfortune had given a finer savor to the 
Marquises philosophy, and there was a kind of heroic 
grace in his undisturbed cultivation of the amenities. 

While the Marquis was struggling to preserve the 
conversational art, and Alfieri planning the savage re- 
venge of the Misogallo, the course of affairs in France 
had gained a wilder impetus. The abolition of the no- 
bility, the flight and capture of the King, his enforced 
declaration of war against Austria, the massacres of 
Avignon, the sack of the Tuileries — such events seemed 
incredible enough till the next had crowded them out 
of mind. The new year rose in blood and mounted to a 
bloodier noon. All the old defences were falling. Reli- 
gion, monarchy, law, were sucked down into the whirl- 
pool of liberated passions. Across that sanguinary scene 
passed, like a mocking ghost, the philosophers^ vision 
of the perfectibility of man. Man was free at last — 
freer than his would-be liberators had ever dreamed of 
making him — and he used his freedom like a beast For 
the multitude had risen — that multitude which no man 
could number, which even the demagogues who ranted in 
its name had never seriously reckoned with — that dim 
grovelling indistinguishable mass on which the whole 
social structure rested. It was as though the very soil 
moved, rising in moimtains or yawning in chasms about 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

the feet of those who had so long securelj battened on 
it The earth shook, the sun and moon were darkened, 
and the people, the terrible unknown people, had put 
in the sickle to the hanrest. 

Italy roused herself at last. The emissaries of the new 
France were swarming across the Alps, pervading the 
peninsula as the Jesuits had once pervaded Europe; and 
in the mind of a young general of the republican army 
visions of Italian conquest were already forming. In 
Pianura the revolutionary agents found a strong repub- 
lican party headed by Gamba and his friends, and a 
government weakened by debt and dissensions. The air 
was thick with intrigue. The little army could no longer 
be counted on, and a prolonged bread-riot had driven 
Trescorre out of the ministry and compelled the Duke 
to appoint Andreoni in his place. Behind Andreoni 
stood Gamba and the radicals. There could be no 
doubt which way the fortunes of the duchy tended. 
The Duke^s would-be protectors, Austria and the Holy 
See, were too busy organizing the hasty coalition of 
the powers to come to his aid, had he cared to call 
on them. But to do so would have been but another 
way of annihilation. To preserve the individuality of 
his state, or to merge it in the vision of a United Italy, 
seemed to him the only alternatives worth fighting for. 
The former was a futile dream, the latter seemed for 
a brief moment possible. Piedmont, ever loyal to the 
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THE REWARD 

monarchical principle, was calling on her sister states to 
arm themselves against the French invasion. But the 
response was reluctant and uncertain. Private ambitions 
and petty jealousies hampered every attempt at union. 
Austria, the Bourbons and the Holy See held the Italian 
principalities in a network of conflicting interests and 
obligations that rendered free action impossible. Sadly 
Victor Amadeus armed himself alone against the enemy. 

Under such conditions Odo could do little to direct 
the course of events. They had passed into more power- 
ful hands than his. But he could at least declare himself 
for or against the mighty impulse which was behind 
them. The ideas he had striven for had triumphed at 
last, and his surest hold on authority was to share 
openly in their triumph. A profound horror dragged 
him bstck. The new principles were not those for which 
he had striven. The goddess of the new worship was 
but a bloody Maenad who had borrowed the attributes 
of freedom. He could not bow the knee in such a char- 
nel-house. Tranquilly, resolutely, he took up the policy 
of repression. He knew the attempt was foredoomed to 
&iliure, but that made no difference now: he was simply 
£tcting out the inevitable. 

The last act came with unexpected suddenness. The 
Duke woke one morning to find the citadel in the pos- 
session of the people. The impregnable stronghold of 
Bracciaforte was in the hands of the serfs whose fathers 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

had toiled to build it, and the last destcendant of Brac- 
ciaforte was virtually a prisoner in his palace. The revo- 
lution took place quietly, without violence or bloodshed. 
Andreoni waited on the Duke, and a cabinet-council 
was summoned The ministers affected to have yielded 
reluctantly to popular pressure. All they asked was a 
constitution and the assurance that no resistance would 
be offered to the French. 

The Duke requested a few hours for deliberation. 
Left alone, he summoned the Duchesses chamberlain. 
The ducal pair no longer met save on occasions of 
state: they had not exchanged a word since the death 
of Fulvia Vivaldi. Odo sent word to her Highness that 
he could no longer answer for her security while she 
remained in the duchy, and that he begged her to 
leave immediately for Vienna. She replied that she was 
obliged for his warning, but that while he remained in 
Pianura her place was at his side. It was the answer he 
had expected — he had never doubted her courage — 
but it was essential to his course that she should leave 
the duchy without delay, and after a moment's reflec- 
tion he wrote a letter in which he informed her that 
he must insist on her obedience. No answer was re- 
turned, but he learned that she had turned white, and 
tearing the letter in shreds had called for her travelling- 
carriage within the hour. He sent to enquire when he 
might take leave of her, but she excused herself on the 
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THE REWARD 

plea of indisposition, and before nightfall he heard the 
departing rattle of her wheels. 

He immediately summoned Andreoni and annoimced 
his unconditional refusal of the terms proposed to him. 
He would not give a constitution or promise allegiance 
to the French. The minister withdrew, and Odo was 
left alone. He had dismissed his gentlemen, and as he 
sat in his closet a sense of deathlike isolation came 
over him. Never had the palace seemed so silent or so 
vast. He had not a friend to turn to. De Crucis was in 
Germany, and Trescorre, it was reported, had privately 
attended the Duchess in her flight. The waves of destiny 
seemed closing over Odo, and the circumstances of his 
past rose, poignant and vivid, before his drowning sight. 

And suddenly, in that moment of failure and aban- 
donment, it seemed to him again that life was worth the 
living. His indifference fell from him like a garment. 
The old passion of action awoke and he felt a new 
warmth in his breast. After all, the struggle was not 
yet over: though Piedmont had called in vain on the 
Italian states, an Italian sword might still be drawn in 
her service. If his people would not follow him against 
France he could still march against her alone. Old 
memories hummed in him at the thought He recalled 
how his Piedmontese ancestors had gone forth against 
the same foe, and the stout Donnaz blood began to 
bubble in his veins. 

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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

A knock roused him and Gamba entered by the pri- 
vate way. His. appearance was not unexpected to Odo, 
and served only to reinforce his new-found energy. He 
felt that the issue was at hand. As he expected, Gramba 
had been sent to put before him more forcibly and un- 
ceremoniously the veiled threat of the ministers. But 
the himchback had come also to plead with his master 
in his own name, and in the name of the ideas for which 
they had once labored together. He could not believe 
that the Duke^s reaction was more than momentary. 
He could not calculate the strength of the old associa- 
tions which, now that the tide had set the other way, 
were dragging Odo back to the beliefs and traditions of 
his caste. 

The Duke listened in silence; then he said: ^^Discus- 
sion is idle. I have no answer to give but that which I 
have already given.^ He rose fixim his seat in token of 
dismissal 

The moment was painful to both men. Gamba drew 
nearer and fell at the Duke^s feet. 

^^ Your Highness,^ he said, ^^consider what this means. 
We hold the state in our hands. If you are against us 
you are powerless. If you are with us we can promise 
you more power than you ever dreamed of possessing.^ 

The Duke looked at him with a musing smile. ^^It is 
as though you offered me gold in a desert island,^ he 
said. ^^Do not waste such poor bribes on me. I care for 
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THE REWARD 

no power but the power to wipe out the work of these 
last years. Failmg that, I want nothing that you or any 
other man can give." 

Gamba was silent a moment. He turned aside into 
the embrasure of the window, and when he spoke again 
it was in a voice broken with grief. 

"Yoiur Highness,'' he said, "if yoiur choice is made, 
ours is made also. It is a hard choice, but these are 
fratricidal hours. We have come to the parting of the 
ways." 

The Duke made no sign, and Gamba went on, with 
gathering anguish: ^^We could have gone to the world's 
end with yoiur Highness for our leader!" 

"With a leader whom you could lead," Odo inter- 
posed. He went up to Gamba and laid a hand on his 
shoulder. ^^ Speak out, man," he said. "Say what you 
were sent to say. Am I a prisoner?" 

The hunchback burst into tears. Odo, with his arms 
crossed, stood leaning against the window. The other's 
anguish seemed to deepen his detachment. 

"Yoiur Highness — your Highness — " Gamba stam- 
mered. 

The Duke made an impatient gesture. "Come, make 
an end," he said. 

Gamba fell back with a profound bow. 

"We do not ask the surrender of your Highness's 
person," he said. 

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THE VALLEY OP DECISION 

**Not even that?^ Odo returned with a faint sneer. 

Gamba flushed to the temples, but the retort died on 
his lips. 

'^Your Highness,^ he said, scarce above a whisper, 
^^the gates are guarded; but the word for to-night is 
HumUUag.'^ He knelt and kissed Odo^s hand. Then he 
rose and passed out of the room. . . 

Before dawn the Duke left the palace. The high 
emotions of the night had ebbed. He saw himself now, 
in the ironic light of morning, as a fugitive too harm- 
less to be worth pursuing. His enemies had let him 
keep his sword because they had no cause to fear it. 
Alone he passed through the gardens of the palace, 
and out into the desert darkness of the streets. Skirting 
the wall of the Benedictine convent where Fulvia had 
lodged, he gained a street leading to the market-place. 
In the pallor of the waning night the ancient monu- 
ments of his race stood up moiunful and deserted as a 
line of tombs. The city seemed a grave-yard and he the 
ineffectual ghost of its dead past. He reached the gates 
and gave the watchword. The gates were guarded, as 
he had been advised; but the captain of the watch let 
him pass without show of hesitation or curiosity. 
Though he had made no effort at disguise he went 
forth unrecognized, and the city closed her doors on 
him as carelessly as on any passing wanderer. 
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THE REWARD 

Beyond the gates a lad from the ducal stables waited 
with a horse. Odo sprang into the saddle and rode on 
toward Pontesordo. The darkness was growing thinner, 
and the meagre details of the landscape, with its 
huddled farm-houses and mulberry-orchards, began to 
define themselves as he advanced. To his left the fields 
stretched, grey and sodden; ahead, on his right, hung 
the dark woods of the ducal chase. Presently a bend 
of the road brought him within sight of the keep of 
Pontesordo. His way led past it, toward Valsecca; but 
some obscure instinct laid a detaining hand on him, 
and at the cross-roads he bent to the right and rode 
across the marshland to the old manor-house. 

The farm-yard lay hushed and deserted. The peasants 
who lived there would soon be afoot; but for the mo- 
ment Odo had the place to himself. He tethered his 
horse to a gate-post and walked across the rough cob- 
ble-stones to the chapel. Its floor was still heaped with 
farm-tools and dried vegetables, and in the dimness a 
heavier veil of dust seemed to obscure the painted walls. 
Odo advanced, picking his way among broken plough- 
shares and stacks of maize, till he stood near the old 
marble altar, with its sea-gods and acanthus volutes. 
The place laid its tranquillizing hush on him, and he 
knelt on the step beneath the altar. Something stirred 
in him as he knelt there — a prayer, yet not a prayer — 
a reaching out, obscure and inarticulate, toward all that 
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THE VALLEY OF DECISION 

had wn r i fcd of hit cariy hopes and fidtha, a looKning 
of old fountt of fitjf a longiiig to be somehow, some- 
where leimited to his old belief in life. 

How long he knelt he knew not; bat when he looked 
up the diapel was full of a pale light, and in the first 
shaft of the sunrise the face of Saint Francis shone out 
on him. . * He went forth into the daybreak and rode 
away toward Fiedmcmt. 



THE END 



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